I am a very task and list-oriented person. I have a list for everything, a plan for everything and a schedule for everything. I am the person that will write something on my list, even if I’ve already done it, for the sheer enjoyment of checking it off. I feel empowered and productive when I push through a long list and tackle all things. I can become very prideful and self-righteous when all is going well, as planned and all things are being accomplished to my liking. I can also be very tough on myself when I don’t get these tasks done and it usually doesn’t even matter that they go undone. But over the past decade, God has taught me a few things about my list-oriented ways.
In 2009, I made a recommitment to follow Christ and was baptized in my new church. Since that time, I have had such an appetite for God’s Word. I love to spend time reading and studying scripture. I have learned so much from The Word and my time in prayer. It’s so cool to reflect from time to time on what he is teaching me. This past week, I was sick and had lots of time to reflect and flip through my journal. Here are a few things that God pointed out to me during this quiet time in regard to my “get-er-done” objectives.
Check-marks don’t really apply to spiritual growth characteristics
We don’t read one scripture and immediately check off “holy.” We don’t say one prayer and then draw a line through “fearless.” We don’t go on a mission trip & then cross off “missional.” In my list-oriented mind, I have done topical Bible studies with the mindset (and goal) that I will be stronger or have more margin or be more brave, as soon as I finish that study. “Check!” But that’s not the case. These studies always point me towards my constant dependency on Him, not on myself, my own strength or my works. The desire to be independent and self-sufficient is so strong in our society. The world tells us to look out for ourselves, depend on ourselves, acquire everything. We want more, buy more, get more, do more – it’s never enough. We are often left feeling empty, exhausted, hopeless and never able to measure up. “I am afflicted and needy; the Lord thinks of me. You are my helper and my deliverer; my God, do not delay.” Psalm 40:17 I am so grateful that the Lord thinks of me – He delivers me and helps me, little ole me! I do not have to do this alone & through each step of life, I’m growing in Him, not just checking characteristics off of a list!
We have to learn the same things over and over again
I can’t expect to write something on my list and check it off once and for all and be done. This is true of laundry as well, it will never really all be done (unless you do laundry in the buff). Every time I start to say to one of my children, “how many times do I have to tell you….” I pause and think of my loving, Heavenly Father saying the same thing to me! There will be different seasons, different trials, different circumstances in our lives and He will use these to teach us new things but also to reiterate lessons we’ve already learned. We will feel weak, lonely and scared at times and question why we are going through something. But it’s in these time and through these trials that we become stronger in Christ. Paul points this out in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV): But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Paul took great delight in these times & we should too. Jim Cymbala stated, “trouble is one of God’s greatest servant’s because it reminds us how much we continually need the Lord.” He also said, “anything, and I mean anything, becomes a blessing if it drives us to prayer.” Most of us are pretty thick-headed, so we have to learn to trust in Him with multiple doses of the same lesson.
Spiritual growth doesn’t get checked off of the list
We will continue to grow and be transformed in the image of Christ until we meet Him face to face. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB) says, “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” It is not from our own effort, strength, drive or works. It is from our Heavenly Father that we become more like Christ. This is ongoing throughout our entire lives. If we wake up one day & claim to be “there” – we’re only deceiving ourselves.
I do think that “spiritually growing” can always be on our list, as long as we abide in Him. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 (ESV) When we remain in Him, seek His face and find peace in His promises, we can let go of our desire to constantly do more and try harder. My natural inclination is to figure out what I need to do more of, when all I need to do is abide in Him. I need to rest in Him. I need to be still in Him and know that He is God, He’s got this! I am to be a human-being, not a human-doing! I receive, He gives. The job of producing fruit is His, not mine. Abide, that’s it!
Lists aren’t bad, they can keep us on task especially when life gets busy. However, they shouldn’t define us or limit us. We don’t base our worth on them or whether they are completed or not. Instead we focus on our Heavenly Father and what He is doing in us. We seek His face & His guidance and know that we will find rest & peace through Him & in Him, not in our accomplishments or lack thereof. Perhaps we can put “abide in Christ” on our daily list, that would be the best thing to check off each day!
I have been married to my amazing, Godly husband, Joe, for 16 years and we have two awesome girls, Lena, 11 & Maddie, 9. I work part-time at Springdale Community Church as a Ministry Assistant and teach group fitness classes at the Norton Commons YMCA. I love spending time with my family, watching my girls play soccer & reading. I enjoy leading the springdale kids in worship and leading a life group with Joe. My passion is to have a deeper understanding of God’s word and to help others fall in love with their heavenly father.