Crossing Things Off the List

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I’ve had some time recently to sit and reflect on two things: what my life consists of, and what I want it to consist more of. As I’ve dreamt about the things I want to see, it has become clear to me that what I give my time to will have to change. On the road map of my life, I’ve realized that unless I make some adjustments, I’m going to get nowhere fast.

This is a hard revelation to swallow, because I’ve worked hard at cultivating a life full of meaningful work. I love the things I give my time to, and those things produce fruit that is beneficial to more than just me. I could easily be content just traveling in circles where I am, in this little territory I’ve employed myself in.

Except that I know there is more. It’s a bit ironic to write about more this week, when last week I wrote about how greater is often the enemy of good, and chasing upgrades can often lead us away from the very best we were meant to have. However, I don’t get the sense that I am being drawn to an upgrade. Rather, it seems like the “more” I feel compelled to chase requires a downgrade, or at least the pursuit of less in order to obtain it.

Time away from the rush and bustle of busy days spent doing my normal, busy things has tapped the reservoir of dreams God has given my heart. And those dreams require the two things I do not have while I am busy doing “normal” work: time and focus. So, in order to chase these dreams, I am going to have to abandon other pursuits – pursuits which, while worthy, have demanded the time and the focus that need to be devoted to the less that will eventually be more.

This is not a new phenomenon. All of humanity faces this crossroad time and time again. We look at our priorities, we look at our longings, and we have to come to a decision about how to better align them so we can have a fuller, more satisfying life. I usually pass this junction about twice a year: right before a new school year starts, and right before each year ends. The realignment is healthy and necessary, if we don’t want to waste the precious time we’ve been given.

Time is something we too easily take for granted, I think. A prayer found in the Psalms is one I frequently utter: “Teach us to number our days (to realize how short our lives are), so that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 

More and more, as I watch my children grow and I see the world growing more and more corrupt, I realize that time is not a gift I will have forever. If I want my life to have the impact it was meant to, I must harness the time I’ve been given and use it wisely. I must be wise about what I choose to spend it on. I must seek God’s heart and His dreams for me and for my family, and then cross things off the list that don’t move me/us toward those dreams.

The problem with this is that I love crossing completed things off my list. It feels good to get things done. A blank day with a blank board to write all the things I’m going to get done on makes me feel happy and accomplished. But if all my accomplishments at the end of the day have led me away from, rather than closer to the dreams God has placed in my heart, then I’ve wasted the time I’ve been given. I must examine all I plan to do in light of the direction it will ultimately move me toward.

The other problem with this is that I am frequently all tangled up in commitments which are hard to untangle myself from. Some of them have become routines. Some of them have made life comfortable – for me and for others. Some of them have positioned me to be available for work that others need to get done, and while I enjoy serving others, I still have to evaluate that work in light of what God is drawing me to in each new season. If I simply entrench myself in commitments that I enjoy, and which make me serviceable to others, I will only spin my wheels in the same direction and make no progress whatsoever toward the meaningful work I am actually called to.

The third problem is that it’s easy to become comfortable with our current work and routines, and crossing things off the list that we can do almost effortlessly in order to make room for things that will require more effort isn’t necessarily an appealing thought. I like easy. I like auto-pilot. But auto-pilot and easy won’t take me to the destination I’m aimed for. I can choose to stay comfortably in the quiver where I’ve created a nice little nest, but I know in my heart that I am destined to hit certain targets. So, in order to stay where I am comfortably, I will have to choose distractions that numb the longing in me which Heaven produces for the more that requires less.

No thank you. I’ve been there and done that, and while I don’t always look forward to the reprioritization of my life and my time, I do enjoy dreaming with God. I love His invitations to more, even if it means pruning everything down to almost nothing in order to make room for it. I can say this because I’ve learned to trust His heart. I’ve tasted the beauty of His dreams. And I know they always land me closer to the target I was created for, while my own plans always tend to keep me stuck and sometimes even lead me away from them.

I will be spending some time in the next few weeks crossing things off my list, again. Not because they are finished. Some of them I have not even begun. But I am becoming aware that, while they may be things I’d like to do, they are not worthy pursuits in this season of my life because I am called to greater things. By greater I don’t mean bigger and better, but sometimes smaller and more closely aligned with God’s heart than the world’s values, or even my own current interests.

I want to interact more with my children. I want to instruct them, not just give them lessons. I want to make time for teaching them to embrace wisdom, rather than just tell them the right thing to do and expect them to quickly obey. I want to give them opportunities to walk through their days, looking for God’s hand, instead of just reading a devotional to them in the morning. This will require time, time structured differently. It will require less structured teaching in some ways, and more devoted time for God to lead us through moments we could not have planned and checked off our list without Him.

I want to write the stories of God’s heart and deliver them to the hungry world. Inside of me are burning words aching to be put on paper, and that dream requires time to not just write, but also root myself in God’s presence and dream more with Him. It requires the investment of time to work and save so that publishing becomes a reality.

I want to connect more with the people I love. More than just having coffee or dinner or get-togethers for events. I want to meaningfully connect with the people in my life so that we receive from one another the gifts God has given us to share. This requires margin, open space for new yeses, and the hard work of saying no to some of the old yeses.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, might I encourage you today to take fresh stock of your heart, of the dreams trying to push their way to the surface there? May you be inspired to look closely at how you spend your time, and honestly evaluate whether it is moving you closer to or keeping you from those dreams. And may you ask God for the wisdom and the courage to begin crossing things off your list, to undertake less in order to reach for the more He has in store for you now.

I imagine that the dreams of God’s heart, lived out through His beloved ones, will make an impact in this world like we cannot begin to imagine! And so, we’ve been invited to imagine today, Dear Woman of Breakthrough!

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

 


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