Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Scratching the to-do list

IT’S STILL EARLY enough in the year for many of us to yet be starting each day with a sense of determination and a clear set of goals. Exercise steps to be taken, sales to be made, long-ignored cupboards to be cleared out.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being fueled by a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Even God paused in the act of creation to note that what He had done so far was good (Gen. 1:10).

The problem comes when we get things backwards—when we pursue completion of tasks to find a sense of worth and value, rather than starting from a place of rest and relationship with God. Because that’s where we find true security in our worth and value. This then allows what we do to be an expression of them.

When we reverse all that, we can end up viewing people as either objects or obstructions. They become things that can help us get to where we want to go, or things that block us from getting there.

But what about if we started each day not with a “to-do” list, but with a “to-be” list? How might things go if our focus was not so much on being productive as being fruitful—in the sense of Galatians 5:22-23?

There Paul identifies the fruits of the Spirit that epitomize a God-anchored life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, thoughtfulness, gentleness, self-control. What might life be like—for us and others—if we ended each day checking back to see whether we’d been kinder and gentler, instead of whether we’d done as many sit-ups as we had intended, or got everything on the grocery list?

Maybe starting from that sort of place, we’d view those who come across our path unexpectedly not so much as objects or obstacles but as opportunities to share something of God with them. Interceptions, not interruptions. Rather than get irritated when we get “bumped into,” we could welcome such moments as an opportunity to spill a little Jesus over them.

This kind of orientation doesn’t mean we have to abandon all our responsibilities and commitments to be at everyone’s beck and call. After all, God has things for us each to do in His world—specific assignments.

Jesus is our example here: He managed to be focused on the end goal while not losing sight of who was right in front of Him. Even as he “set His face like flint” toward Jerusalem and His showdown there with the devil and death, He had time for those He encountered along the way. But it wasn’t a free for all. He refused to get drawn into clever but distracting arguments. Sometimes, He moved on to new places even when people wanted Him to stay put and preach and heal more there.

He even reflected that balance in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The traveler stopped to help the guy injured at the side of the road. But he didn’t cancel all his plans; he took the man to an inn, set him up to be cared for, and went on his way. He showed the man mercy without being at his mercy.

How we end up treating people depends on where we start from.

Photo by Hey Paul Studios on Foter.com/CC BY

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