I function best when I work from a to-do list. Generally, I have an ongoing to-do list that I’m adding things to the bottom of while crossing off completed tasks. It gets rewritten every couple of weeks when the paper is filled or enough things have been crossed off that it’s time to start afresh. There are times that I have to create sublists, or separate to-do lists, for specific projects such as we have going for remodeling the house.
My lists are not well organized, nor prioritized. However, they are vital to effectively completing the necessary tasks in the ministry and life in general. When I don’t have a written list, I tend to jump from this to that and then over there and back to the other thing before realizing that I missed getting something important done. The most likely time for me to make such a realization is between one and three in the morning, when I should be sleeping.
To-do lists are good tools for keeping us organized and on task. We have other types of lists as well. There are checklists that pilots, and others, use to be sure all safety items have been completed before takeoff. We may have lists of goals or dreams that we want to accomplish. God gave us a list of ten commandments in the Bible. There are many types of lists, and they all have a purpose and benefit.
Lists Don’t Always Help
However, there is a place where working from a list of dos and don’ts can get us into trouble. That is in relationships. Especially our relationship with the Lord.
If you grew up in a church like mine, then you probably have a good understanding of the things that we should and shouldn’t be doing to please God. Thou shalt _____. Thou shalt not _____. If we were successful in checking the right boxes of the lists, then we could feel good about our relationship with God.
Unfortunately, this left me lacking. It was logical and understandable, sometimes even doable, but it was never enough. The problem was that it left my relationship with God dependent upon my performance. When I did well, it led to pride and judging others for not doing as well as me. Then there was the rest of the time when I didn’t perform up to the expected standards. This left me with insecurity in my relationship with God.
God’s Unconditional Love
Fortunately for me, and all of us, God’s love is not dependent upon our performance and ability to do the right things and avoid the wrong things. Because of the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we have been adopted as children of God. He loves us unconditionally.
God loved us while we were still dead in our sins (See Romans 5:8). He loved us so much that He sent His only son to be the sacrifice for our sins (See John 3:16). He continues to love us as we grow in our Christian walk. We can choose to walk away from His love, but His love will remain there for us to walk back into (See Luke 15:11-32). We didn’t do anything to earn God’s love, and we can do nothing to unearn His love. There is nothing that can separate us from His love (See Romans 8:38-39).
Because I have a good Father that loves me, I want to walk in, and experience that love in my daily life. This requires that I show up and be an active participant in the relationship. While His love is unconditional and never ending, we get to decide if we will experience the benefits of that love.
Being in Relationship
We are called human beings, not human doings. I’m better at doing than being. But to have intimacy with the Lord, I need to be with Him. To sit and just be. Not doing anything other than just being together. For a task oriented person like myself, that is extremely uncomfortable.
My favorite times with my kids are not when they are doing things for me but rather when we are just being together. It may be times of sitting together and talking. We could be playing games, cooking together, or doing other tasks. The important thing is that we get to be together in whatever we are doing.
There will be plenty of opportunities to do things that flow out of our relationship with the Lord, but we must first be in relationship with Him. It doesn’t have to be structured and well-organized. Our only time with the Lord should not be in our “daily quiet time” for a few minutes before or after our hectic day. Prayer is conversation with God and that can, and should, happen continually throughout our days.
If Dallas and I only talked a few minutes in the morning and then a brief one-sided thank you before each meal, our relationship would be greatly lacking. Instead, we interact throughout each day. We have concentrated times of being together and talking. We also have check-ins as things happen. There is a continuous, ongoing interaction intertwined among the tasks of life. That is how it should be with our relationship with the Lord.
Walking it Out
Praying without ceasing does not mean that we lock ourselves in a closet and pray 24 hours per day. It means that we are in relationship with the Lord such that there is an ongoing dialogue throughout all of our activities.
As beloved children of God, wherever we go, the Lord goes with us. There is no hiding from our Father, He sees everything. How about we include Him in it all instead of trying to do it on our own? He promises to never leave us or forsake us (See Hebrews 13:5). Out of a place of being in a relationship, we can then do the things that He desires along with Him.
How are you in your relationship with the Lord? Do you have a checklist of activities that you are trying to complete to please Him? Are you walking through all of life being with Him or just inviting Him into some areas of your life? He is much less interested in your performance and lists than He is in being with you.
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