trusting . resting . following

The Tyranny of the To-Do List

October 31, 2012


I love lists.  Over the years I have fully embraced the philosophy that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.  Every night before bed I would write a list of things I needed to do the next day.  Sometimes prioritized from most to least important.  After all, if I don’t “aim” to get something done, I’ll get nothing done every time.

And, to a point, it’s a great philosophy by which to live.

Except here in Africa.  I’m living amongst a people that simply doesn’t understand a to-do list.  They have very different values.  Guests that show up to visit unannounced aren’t interruptions in their day.  Success is not getting things done, and checking things off a list.  Success is… well, I can’t pretend to understand how a successful day is viewed here.  I’m not even sure they would measure a day in terms of success.  I do know that relationships and how they treat others is VERY important.  To show annoyance at being interrupted is incredible rudeness.  Sometimes the lack of goals and hard work all around me drives me nuts, but I think even more often my drive and to-do lists confuse them.  More than causing confusion, I think they pity me for my inferior value-system.

A clash of cultures is one thing, but recently the Lord has used this clash to reveal to me a deeper spiritual problem.  I am holding on to an inferior value-system.

My “good philosophy” has turned into my “god.”  My to-do list has become the controlling ruler of my life.  If there are interruptions I get frustrated and anxious.  If I don’t get most things done on my to-do list that evening, I feel defeated and unsuccessful.  I’m trapped in my own “good philosophy.”

If I’m clinging to my to-do list, I’m not allowing God the chance to move and work freely through events and circumstances of each day.  I’m not exercising a sensitive spirit that can hear God’s still small voice.  Can I trust Him enough to toss the to-do list?  He knows me.  He knows the needs around me.  He knows where I can best be used in this corner of His harvest field where He has placed me.  His leading is much more adequate than my to-do list.  And what an exciting, freeing way to be “practicing the presence of God” like Brother Lawrence so many ages ago!

I'm far from being free of my old tyrant.  Habits die hard.  But I am actively praying toward and pursuing the freedom of simply and humbly walking with God, trusting Him for each day.


 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  Mic 6:8 





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