I'm a task-oriented person, but I'm not that fond of to-do lists. I know that sounds kind of odd, but there it is.
It's not that I don't ever make to-do lists. I'll make them from time to time when I'm getting ready for a trip, or making sure that my kid has all of the supplies he needs for sleepaway camp, but most of the time I just keep the to-do list in my head.
Sure, I get bit once in a while, and I'll push a deadline on a project, or I'll put off getting the oil changed in the car, but since I follow a regular rhythm with my week most of the time, my to-do list hardly ever changes.
Here's the rub, though. When I am experiencing anxiety or facing a crisis, I usually will find more things to do, and the list in my head can get really long.
I will take on projects and create tasks that "need" doing because I think at the moment that if I just work harder and get more done, I'll be able to handle my challenges like a hero.
But the more things I add, the more likely it is that my life can go off the rails, which always serves to remind me that I'm not really in control of all that much.
The fact that these past two years have been one long crisis both personally and professionally for many of us might give you an idea of what's been happening in my head.
For me, being able to work my way out of a crisis, or whatever it is that I'm facing is really just a by-product of my need to control my outcomes.
Even if you don't struggle with the same issues that I just described, you might have other pressures on you right now that are testing the limits of what you feel you can control.
You could be going through a life transition that has you spinning. You might have a relationship that is falling apart or a job that you've lost your joy doing. Maybe you are struggling with health issues, anxiety, or depression.
And you just might be white-knuckling things, tightening your grip, trying to control everything you can, and losing your joy, your ability to be present, and so much more in the process.
I read this poem by Mary Oliver this morning that really spoke to me and actually got me thinking more deeply about this very topic. When we refuse to cede control of our outcomes to God, and trust that God is for us, we find ourselves losing sight of ourselves very quickly:
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often...
If we want to move easily through the world, unhurried enough to experience the holiness around us, we'll need to start living differently.
And it starts with letting go of our attachments to affirmation, success, control, power, and all of the old false gods that keep us churning, doing more, worrying more, stressing more, and thinking that there is more if we do more.
I'm going to do my best to slow down a bit and walk more slowly. I want to find moments and spaces where I feel the holiness of God, and where worship flows from my heart, unimpeded and free.
I am going to do my best, and I will give myself grace when I find myself running again. I hope that you will do the same.
Because giving ourselves grace when we miss the mark is just as important as letting go of our need for control. We need both if we are going to find peace.
May it be so for you today and every day from this day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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