Updated: Sep 29, 2020
“In short, as a business owner, you’re going to get hit by big traumatic, potentially harmful, or life-ending events, sometimes in succession. Your ability to compartmentalize, prioritize, and focus enough time on each area in order to make incremental progress towards a conclusion will be your most important skill set to achieve significant success.” Ryan Blair, Forbes
When I worked as a nurse, compartmentalization was essential to survival. Hypothetically, in one room, I’d have a patient crying with his family after hearing some bad news from the doctor. They would need compassion, potentially more explanations, and then maybe some privacy. In another room, a patient would require a couple units of blood quickly or their condition would quickly worsen. They’d need me to be unscathed from the previous room’s emotions. I would need to be focused, while also being conscious to not reveal just how concerned I am about their blood-loss so they don’t get more panicked and decline quicker. In another room, I’d have a patient not-so-patiently awaiting the discharge papers that I hadn’t had time to review yet. I would need to be understanding of his anger, realizing he is anxious to get released. And sometimes, at home I’d have a sick kid and a husband wishing for an extra helping hand, but I’d have to keep that out of the forefront of my mind in my patients’ rooms. Each room I’d enter would have a different version of me, fitting what they needed at the moment. Compartmentalizing my patients and my homelife helped me stay focused, and it helped my patients know they were getting good care.
While this may be effective in the workplace, the skill of compartmentalizing can become so habituated and ingrained in us that it carries over and invades places it shouldn’t. I think of times where people of faith act differently in church than they do in a busy line at the grocery store, or when I see someone put on their best behavior in front of church staff but lose the facade immediately at the pastor’s departure. I think of times where prayers spoken are entirely contrary to actions, or when the Bible is something that is only opened on Sunday mornings. We sometimes treat our faith as a check-off list. We become religious with our actions. We make sure to attend church functions, acting a certain way with that crowd, but when left to our daily routines, we become someone completely different.
I began to notice compartmentalization gone awry in my own life when I grew closer to some of my coworkers who then became outside-of-work friends. As we grew closer, they started going to the same church as me and eventually the same Bible study/small group. It’s when you have friends who see you in several different compartments in your life that you begin to be held more accountable to be constant. Noone wants a friend who changes with the scenery. And while it may feel like God lives inside the church, he doesn't; he is just like that coworker turned co-group member. He is with you in all of the compartments, and he wishes you to value his Holy Spirit’s input in all of them.
In Matthew 13:33 Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”
In order to get bread to rise, you need a leavener. When using yeast as a leavener, it feeds on the sugars in flour, releasing carbon dioxide, which allows the bread to rise. This process adds the distinctive flavors and aromas that we enjoy in bread. (See Bread Science 101) So if the Kingdom of Heaven (God’s family into which you can be reborn John 3:1-21) functions in this same way, it eats away some of the parts of our lives (i.e. the parts that hold us back, like shame, guilt, and fear), and it releases something that allows us to rise up and become what God intended for us to be.
When we believe in and follow Jesus, and when we begin to trust and give him control over our lives, we’re adding yeast to the bread. This starts a process in us that permeates into all of the compartments of our lives. Jesus wants us to de-compartmentalize him. While we may require a degree of compartmentalization, we need him in all areas of our lives. If we don’t limit Jesus to Sunday mornings, the work we can do together has unfathomable potential.
In the first patient’s room, the Holy Spirit might compel me to pray with the family, changing their outlooks on the situation and renewing their faith. In the next room, the Holy Spirit may give me the level of calm and focus that I require in order to notice that the donated blood is not compatible with my patient’s blood type, saving the patient from many complications. And in the third room, the Holy Spirit may give me the patience to not only tolerate the angry patient, but to maybe even minister to him and let him leave the hospital changed.
Do you compartmentalize God? How might your life change if you allowed him into every area of your life?
You could start by praying something like this:
I welcome you into every part of my life. I want to know you so well that I hear your voice in every situation, so that I know what is it you want me to do. Help me to remain constant in every area of my life, representing you well in each of them. Amen