By Tamela Davis

2016 was a chaotic year for our family. We relocated into our 4th house in four years, moved to Cleveland to start a new job with our second NFL team, welcomed a baby girl, making us outnumbered with 3 kids under 3, attempted to maintain other relationships, accepted ministry opportunities (that didn’t always align with our schedule), and the list goes on.

One morning as I sat drinking my coffee, I began to reflect on the past 5 years of my life. Wow, things had really changed. I was no longer a single graduate student working 2 jobs while juggling classes and a social life. I am now a wife of an NFL player; mom to three babies; professional mover; loyal friend; mentor; entertainer; servant; chef; and Christian, just to name a few. While I love my life and roles, I find in my heart a desire for a little individual success to compete with my husband’s. Sometimes, other people make me feel as if my roles are insignificant. It often feels like an emotional war is being waged in my mind and heart, and my self-esteem is deteriorating.
As I reflected on the tensions I felt, I realized I did not have enough boundaries. The only people I found myself saying no to were God (“not right now”), my husband (“my way is better”), and myself (“you’re ok, continue to pour into those around you, you’ll rest and enjoy life later”). I was drained. I’d been giving all of me to various things and people while forgetting to take care of myself, trust my husband’s leadership, and draw closer to God.

I’ve always been a people pleaser who put a lot of focus on my image, but it had multiplied tremendously with these new responsibilities. Although I’m a Christian and know God’s truth and commands, I was falling short daily. Why? Because I was attempting to maintain a Christian life while submitting to the world’s standards. I felt divided. I felt guilty about the platform God had given my family and I. I was looking around me trying to find fulfillment in my roles or blessings. Day after day, night after night, I was coming up empty.
The smile I wore with family and friends was contagious, but the emptiness on the inside was depressing. “How did I end up here? I didn’t sign up for this. I want my old life back,” I would think. The battle of comments and questions with myself got even deeper. Then I came to yet another realization. I ended up here because I unconsciously insisted on making my life complicated. Of course I didn’t just sit down one day and say, “I’m going to make my life as complicated as possible.” But I did unknowingly make daily decisions in light of that.

Life could have been simple, but it became complex when time and time again I tried too hard to please others and make them happy. It became complex when I stopped embracing the moments in front of me and instead focused on the future. It became complex when I spent more time attempting to create perfect moments than I did to simply enjoy them. It became complex when I spent countless hours trying to maintain a perfect image as a wife, mom, home-maker, and friend, forgetting that God loves me unconditionally right where I’m at and sees me as perfect because I am united with Christ (the only Perfect One). It became complex when I utilized a tremendous amount of energy and time having pity parties, being a fault finder of others, and trying to fit into the NFL lifestyle, all while trying to manage the perfect home-life that I now submit doesn’t exist.

As I got to the end of my coffee, I felt a peace I hadn’t felt in a long time. In that small moment GOD revealed to me that it was time for me to simplify. He revealed to me that the life He created for me was simple (though not easy!), and I had been making it too complicated.

So what does simplifying look like for me?

It’s learning the power of healthy boundaries and saying no. That not every outstanding ministry opportunity is for me to commit to.

It’s accepting that I don’t need a huge, immaculate home to create the life I desire for my family and to be a servant, mentor, or entertainer.

It’s understanding that no matter what I do, I can’t and don’t need to please everyone. As long as I’m pleasing Him, everything else will follow.

It’s coming back to the heart of worship where everything I do is all about my Father, for His glory.

It’s taking the standards of the world (family and friends included) off myself and replacing them with the standards of GOD. Not “gaining the world and losing my soul.” (Matthew 16:26)

It’s living in light of the Gospel daily. Tim Keller says, “The gospel is this: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” God’s love is unconditional and I don’t need to become a better version of me to receive all that he has to offer. It’s a free gift from Him.

It’s letting the Holy Spirit guide my life, not my flesh: I love what Romans 8:5-6 says: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” I have found this so true that when my mind is governed by the flesh, life feels unrestful, complicated, and empty.

It’s not trying to be the co-author of my own life, for my story is already written and it’s far greater than anything I could attempt to write on my own.

It’s learning the importance of having a “Mary heart in a Martha’s world.” Sitting at his feet. Resting in Him. Trusting His purpose, plan, and process.

It’s surrendering everything to Him: thoughts, emotions, and actions.

It’s being in the Word daily and seeking to walk in obedience.

I think the simplicity God is calling me to can be summed up in the word abide. As Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you”(John 15:4). Keep company with Jesus in simple and pure fellowship, devotion, and intimacy. Stay near to Him in vital connection. This is the greatest privilege we have! Like I said, it’s not easy with the myriad of distractions from without and within, but it is simple and leads to life and fruitfulness!