I love To Do lists!
If prizes were given for the longest list, some of mine might qualify as gold-medal winners. I compile morning lists, afternoon lists, after work lists, weekly lists, bucket lists, reading lists, baking lists, grocery lists, appointment lists, work lists, seasonal lists, gift lists, and menu lists.
There is a sense of accomplishment in crossing items off the quickly scratched items. Numbering the items in the order of importance erases the decision of what to do next. The sense of accomplishment builds as tasks are completed. Occasionally a task that I just finished is added to the list for the pleasure of crossing off one more thing.
Even when I read the Bible, my mind thinks in lists.
Love your enemies, do good, bless, pray, give, be kind and compassionate. (Luke 6:28-36)
I am chosen, called, cleansed, crowned. (Romans 8:29-30).
Wisdom is pure, peace-loving, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good deeds, shows no favoritism, and always sincere. (James 3:17-18)
These are a few examples, but you get the idea.
How do lists benefit my life? As I continue to think about simplicity and making intentional choices, I’ve considered the benefits or distractions of a list. I decided to make two lists. (Surprised?)
Benefits of a list
Focus my attention on what needs to be done
Frees my mind to think my own thoughts, not organize tasks
Feeling of accomplishment
Distractions of a list
“Doing” rather than being
Trying to do more
Lists help me get through busy times. Weddings, graduations, birthdays, tea parties are joyful events that are enjoyed more fully when the details are planned.
This past year, as plans were made to host family Christmas events, I learned something about my lists. Though they helped me account for the details and prepare the gifts, food, activities, and photo opportunities, I kept adding to the list.
While lists can make life better, I am learning that sometimes my lists fool me.
Lists can be an idol, something that controls my life. By focusing on the list, I think that I can do things in my own strength, rather than trusting in Christ’s strength.
Sometimes the list puts the urgent ahead of the important, like time in God’s word, making room in my day for exercise, or playing with my granddaughters.
Centuries ago, a young man had a list which he had all crossed off. Yet he still felt empty. He was looking for something more.
We know him as “the rich young ruler.”
When asked by Jesus to keep the commandments, he said that he had done all of that.
Jesus told him to sell all that he had to follow Him.
The young man walked away. Though all the right things were done on the outside, something was missing in his heart. There was no room for Jesus.
So I am trying to live some days without a list, learning to listen to the rhythms of my heart, quieting my spirit to hear the voice that whispers in stillness.
There will be times that I will revert to my lists to get the important things accomplished, to visualize the priorities of the day or week, to keep track of the books and people that have made a difference in my life.
But learning to walk by faith, list or not, still needs space and quiet for listening to His voice.