Compartmentalizing God


Have you ever heard the phrase “Don’t take work home with you?”

Let’s say you’ve had a terrible day at work. If you properly separate the negative emotions resulting from your bad day from the rest of your emotions, you will leave work and arrive home happy. This is a classic example of compartmentalization—to divide your emotions in your mind and only focus on what you want to.

Some of you are thinking this is quite difficult to achieve. But others are thinking you already do that. There are positive and negative consequences that go along with compartmentalization and compelling arguments for and against the practice. But the reality is, this is a coping mechanism we have all accessed at one time or another.

Compartmentalization is a bit of a buzzword in North America but it isn’t a new concept. Ancient Greek philosophers spoke of compartmentalizing life into five realities: physical, mental, social, financial, and spiritual. Today’s psychologists refer to compartmentalizing as consciously separating life into compartments as a way of avoiding negative emotions.

Putting all the aspects of your life into tidy little categories so you can deal with each thing at the proper time seems like a nice idea, but it doesn’t work for everything.

One example is your relationship with God. Often, our tendency is to go to God when we “really need Him,” or when we’re doing something spiritual, like attending church or reading the Bible and praying. We like to give God part of us, but keep “the parts that don’t concern Him,” to ourselves. This is not biblical.

Romans 12:1 says we are meant to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. In the Old Testament, according to God’s Law, animal sacrifices were killed, cut into pieces, and placed on an altar. When Paul points out that God wants us to offer ourselves to Him he means our entire self—every compartmentalized piece of us.

There’s nothing wrong with dividing up your life into pieces and sometimes emotions need to be dealt with at a later time, once you’ve gained perspective or gone for help. But know that God wants to be a part of your everyday life—not just when we need help, or on Sundays. He is concerned about every part of us and wants us to give our lives fully to Him.

David’s prayer in Psalm 139:1–6 (MSG) sums it up nicely. Maybe it can be your prayer too:

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.
I'm an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I'm never out of your sight.
You know everything I'm going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you're there,
then up ahead and you're there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can't take it all in!