You would think by now I’d have it figured out. At least certain things in life seem like they should be a given – and yet as I stare down a birthday that marks another trip around the sun, I wonder why I feel like I’m just beginning to learn some things that seem so obvious.
So here goes. You might call this a confession of sorts. Or maybe a resolution for a new year, a new perspective. Call it what you may, on this day before my birthday, I feel the need to lay bare my heart a little.
We’ve all had those days – you form a plan, scrawl out the to-do list, run through the day just trying to keep up with the next thing, and end your day with more on that perpetual to-do list than when you started? All the while thinking, “if only I could only be more disciplined … if only there just weren’t so many interruptions … if only I had more hours in the day”
There are the mundane things you have to do, like laundry, dishes, feeding the starving children who make all the dirty clothes and leave trails of Legos all over your floor … we so often hurry through these things so we can get to the “important” part of our day. And yet, if you’ve read anything I’ve written over the last few years, you will see the traces of God helping me see that there is no “mundane” – no part of the day lived outside His sweet and redeeming presence. We worship with our hands in soapy water and our heads bent low over another toilet that needs to be cleaned. I have been helped in this journey by reminders like this: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” – 1 Corinthians 10:30. The refrain is echoed in one of my favorite books – Every Moment Holy. There are prayers in this precious book that claim every moment – even the changing of diapers – for the God we ultimately serve. Reeling me back in to focus on what is really important. I try to camp here.
I know this and believe this with all my heart. I have pontificated at length about this, as if all the words will somehow form me into a deep soul who can live in this place. So why do I get impatient when my precious son interrupts my busy to-do list with his latest silly joke? Why do I feel like what I need to do is more important than the situation in front of me, taking me away from my plans so that I find it almost impossible to give an entire day to God? Why do I feel such impossible tension between what I believe and what I do?
And herein lies my confession. I still want to be in control. You might even say I need to be in control. I’m a fairly rational person – I believe that if you hand me a map, I can figure out the shortest distance between point A and point B. Just point me in the direction I need to go, and I’ll make a way for us to get there. And I want everyone to stand back, get out of my way, and not muck up my beautifully crafted plan. That’s where the logic flies off the rails: I am completely comfortable handing my whole life over to Jesus – just let me handle this day!
And He’s not letting me get by with it. A couple weeks ago, I had something important happening at my house that I needed to be home for. I had a couple quick errands to run, and had it all planned out. A stop at the iPhone repair store, a quick hop over to another store to pick something up, and then back home just in time. It was supposed to work perfectly, but I didn’t factor in Murphy. Well, I don’t have to tell you what happens next in this little story because we’ve all lived it – there was the customer in front of me that took much longer than expected … the store that didn’t have what I needed … the trip across town to another store to track down the item … yada yada yada. And I suddenly found myself fuming in traffic, berating myself for choosing the wrong time and the wrong stop on that packed day. With the red traffic light glaring down at me and the cars all around, it was like I could suddenly hear the chuckle of God as He whispered to me, “Do you really think I can’t handle this?”
And I had to laugh at myself a bit along with Him. Because that’s the problem with chariots – they may be helpful and kinda impressive but they’re really not that trustworthy.
“some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:6)
I’ve been trusting in my grand plan and my strength to carry it out. Trusting in myself to make it happen. Here I stand before the God who flung the galaxies into space and parted the Red Sea – the God who has shown up in amazing ways in my own life – and I complain about a little interruption in my “perfect” plan? This is where I find my imbalance.
I wonder … do you feel this with me? Maybe time isn’t your challenge – maybe it’s your finances. Or your career. Or that unhealthy relationship that you just can’t get past. What are you trying to control that you need to release today … release to the One who created and designed you, your situation, and this specific day in the middle of it all?
It is commonly known that Bach would inscribe the bottom of many pages of his compositions with the initials “SDG”- indicating Soli Deo Gloria – “to God alone be the glory”. I recently discovered that he would usually include something else, and this rounds it all out for me! At the top of the page before he would write the beautiful music God brought to life in his soul, he would scribble the initials “JJ”. They stand for “Jesu Juva” – “Jesus, help me!” How many mornings have you stared down a day with that cry in your heart? I know I feel it this sleepy morning. There’s a difference between just doing a day and doing it well. I want to inhabit that difference – to bring that awareness into every decision. I want to find myself stopping more often, asking God what I should do next instead of just blindly rushing into the next moment on my list. I pray that this next year will be marked by this intentionality.
So as I sit here this morning and watch the sun rise, I’m already making my plans for the day. And I think that’s ok – we all have schedules and things to accomplish. But in the middle of it all, I’m grateful for this reminder from Elisabeth Eliot: “Lord, You have assigned my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure’ (Ps16:5). I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. As I accept the given portion other options are cancelled. Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter.”