I’m a lover of lists. I have long-term to-do lists and daily to-do lists. And when I am trying to live a godly life, I even pray about my workload.
It used to be I would bring my to-do list before God. I would present it to him almost as if he were upper-level management and I was asking him to bring his big rubber stamp that says “Approved” down on it. I wanted him to sign off on my agenda for the day. The problem with that is it still made it my agenda.
Now, I am struggling to learn to sit before God as an obedient servant, awaiting his orders. I ask him to write my to-do list.
I read through my list first, and then a sticky note becomes my blank canvas for God. I try to focus my thoughts on him and not the tasks I believe await my day. To do that I often sing a praise song that focuses on the name of Jesus, or simply whisper his name over and over until I feel my mind stop racing. And then I listen for the whisper of God.
When I do, God often gives me things to do that aren’t even on my list. You might think that would stress me out, but instead they are usually things that give my life meaning. I find his instructions usually incorporate my spiritual gifts. They are things that would never make my to-do list because they aren’t urgent.
Several years ago as I knelt by my chair, I heard God say, “Call Kelly.” Now you need to know that I hate the telephone. I don’t like to call anyone, even my closest friends. If someone calls me, that’s fine; I’m happy to talk with her. I just can’t stand making calls. I know it’s an irrational fear, but it’s my irrational fear. My friends know to feel honored if I ever pick up the phone to call them. (E-mail was the best communication method that ever came into my life.) So whenever the idea of calling anyone floats into my head while I sit quietly before God, I know it’s a message from him, because I would never think that on my own.
Back to Kelly, then. Kelly and I were best friends for an intense couple of years while we were church planting in Delaware. We served at church together and got together every week to eat queso at Chili’s and talk about our lives. And then she and her husband up and moved to California.
She doesn’t like to call people any more than I do, so we talked only once or twice a year. She doesn’t even do e-mail regularly, so communication of all kinds was scarce.
The day when I heard, “Call Kelly,” was one when I was trying to be obedient to God and his instructions. (Yes, there are days when I ignore his voice, treating the ideas as “nice suggestions” or a random thought.) I had also recently heard someone say that the first task on your to-do list you should do is the one you dread the most. Then it’s done and you don’t spend the whole day dreading it.
But Kelly was in California, and I was on the East Coast, so I had to wait a few hours until it was an appropriate time to call her.
When I thought it was late enough to call, I first called her home number. No answer. So I left a message telling her I was thinking about her and wanted her to know that. To be sure I obeyed God, I even went the extra mile and called her cell phone. Again there was no answer, so again I left a message. Feeling very proud of myself, I crossed “Call Kelly” off my to-do list and went on with my day.
A few minutes later, my phone rang. It was Kelly. “I can’t believe you called. I’m on my way to the airport to go home and watch my mother die.”
We talked and cried and prayed.
What would have happened if I had ignored God’s voice on that day? I believe enough in a gracious God that he wouldn’t have left Kelly alone on her drive. He would have whispered “Call Kelly” to another, more receptive soul. But because I listened and obeyed, I got the privilege of being God’s voice of encouragement to Kelly that day.
And those are the kinds of privileges I receive when I wait, sit with God and then rise up. My day includes some things that really matter for eternity.
What are you hearing God write on your to-do list?
This post is taken from my book Finding Balance in the Circus of Life, which is with a publishing house right now as they decide whether or not to publish it. Please pray that God provides the right company to publish it at the right time. Thanks!