Warning signs

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

My computer just gave me a warning. A box with a big red light popped up at the bottom of the screen: “Warning! User Resources Are Low!” A few clicks of the mouse and a quick re-boot of the machine, and I’m back in good shape.

A few months ago, I installed a neat program that works in the background monitoring a number of the different functions of my computer. I wanted a program that would warn me before my machine goes brain-dead and crashes because of some problem I fail to recognize. The program works really well.

“Warning! User Resources Are Low.” It’s important to pay attention to that message if it pops up on your computer. It’s much more important to recognize it when it pops up in your life.

Do you manage from time to time to get yourself overcommitted, overbooked, overdrawn, stressed out, distressed, and generally depressed by it all? Who doesn’t?
And then the message begins popping up in any number of ways. You are snappy with your family. Even the dog isn’t too excited to see you coming. You find finding fault becoming your default mode. Lots of normally minor irritants are in contention to become “the straw that broke it.” And you’re “it.”

The car breaks. Again. The fender gets dented. The plumbing goes caput. Here’s another bill to add to the stack. Here’s one more form from one more mindless bureaucrat. Here’s one more task. Here’s one more commitment. Your head aches. Your stomach aches. You are sick and tired even if you’re not really sick and shouldn’t be all that tired.
What do you do when you receive such a “warning” message? The suggestions are endless, and more easily given than applied, but here are a few . . .

Unplug for a day or two or even an hour or two when a mini-vacation is all you’re allowed. Take some time off. Take a vacation that’s really a vacation-free of deadlines and schedules and busy-ness. Learn to prioritize. Not all busy-ness is all that important. Take a walk. Take some time to remind yourself that who you are and what you can do are not the same things.

Realize that your net worth and your real worth are not even distantly related. Learn to say “No” kindly, but with conviction. Call a dear friend. (Phone calls are cheap compared to therapists!) Don’t be too proud to call for help, professional or otherwise, when you need it.

Count your blessings.

Read the Psalms — You’ll recognize yourself in some of them. Read a good book. Close your eyes and listen to beautiful music. Sing. Hug your little ones. Hug your not-so-little ones. Let God hug you. Thank him.
But don’t ignore the “Warning!”