Once upon a time, there lived a well-intentioned mom.
She spent half of her time hustling to get her life just right. The other half was devoted to worrying over the fact that it wasn’t.
Her worry-to-hustle ratio was pretty standard, she thought, but it was a very delicate balance.
Of course, she was the one who decided what just right even meant. And it would change, depending on her stage of life.
She worked and fretted over every detail of her wedding registry, as though her plate choice would be the embodiment of her new married identity. She agonized over establishing the perfect schedule for her baby, one that would encapsulate everything she wanted to be as a mom. Later, she lost sleep pouring over curriculum decisions, organic food choices, and the family calendar.
It felt as though everyone else had gotten a handbook, one that she had somehow failed to obtain.
She was exasperated. Didn’t God know how badly she wanted things to be right? Why was He making her fumble through life like this?
Time passed and she began to take inventory, realizing that though well-intentioned, her standards for just right were unrealistic. She didn’t have to say yes to every new event in order to be a good mom. She didn’t have to lie awake at night worrying over how she was viewed by every person she’d ever met.
There was a glimmer of freedom.
While she was able to let go of the obviously ridiculous thoughts, a fact she counted as legitimate progress, the priorities that were solidly in her lap were another story.
. . . this was me up till last week.
(Hi, by the way. Sorry it’s been a while. We were camping and then I was wrestling with this topic.)
Here’s Where I Got Stuck
In January, I picked a Word of the Year:
This word seemed to embody everything I wanted to focus on for 2019. And I’ve been doing just that.
I really thought deeply about the whole thing. What were my responsibilities in life right now? What was truly important to me? I made my list and then posted it in my bedroom on one of those charming felt boards with plastic letters.
Ah, finally, a clear list. A visual summation of the path in front of me. Everything that mattered most to me was on this list. It was going to help me streamline my decisions, focus my energy, and maximize my Christianity.
Knowing where we want to go isn’t a terrible thing. It felt good to finally have life boiled down to the essentials. To think, I didn’t have to agonize over the pile of things that didn’t make the list. What freedom!
With rolled up sleeves, I was ready. I was going to finally focus on what was focus-worthy. And you all were coming with me.
I was all too aware that there was a gap between what I said I believed and what actually happened in my day-to-day life—and we were going to wrestle with this problem here on the blog until I either got myself together or died trying.
I no longer needed everything to be just right, only the most important things! They were the ones that mattered. I’d been wasting all my efforts on nonsensical things for years. But no more!
My marriage wasn’t going to fall off the back any longer. My health would no longer be an afterthought. My kids were going to get the best of me, not the last dregs. I was going to make time to invest in relationships and love my neighbors. I was going to be cheerful and pleasant. I was going to be diligent and patient and loving. And joyful. And restful. And God, I can’t do this.
It was a hard fall.
The picture I had before me, the version of myself who had everything just right, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, was so beautiful I could cry. I want to be her so badly.
But I can’t organize my way into heart change. There isn’t a habit tracker in the world that can turn me into Jesus.
This is a hard swallow, especially because I believe we are responsible for our choices. I believe God wants me to live a life of purpose and diligence, of peace and joy. (And I even like habit trackers!) I just can’t do it on my own.
My Word of the Year is Priorities, but I got it wrong. Having God-honoring priorities isn’t about making a list of your most important things and trying really hard.
It is making Communion with God a priority in everything you do.
The list I made was good. I still believe that those things are God’s plan for my life. But focusing on them is not my top priority.
These words of Jesus, though familiar, hit me squarely between the eyes:
Abiding in God is my highest calling. And the difference between nothing and much fruit.
God didn’t tell us to do our homework and call Him if we need help.
He is calling us to a deeper life of constant connection to Him. This isn’t something we can manufacture. It is organic, like a vine.
As my life is connected with God, I will bear fruit because I am attached to a source. Those important things that I long to do well are the very things I must give to Him. Because, deep down, I don’t want my life to run like a machine. I want it to breathe life to everyone around me. And that’s not something I can do.
It’s not about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. It is about diligently surrendering our lives to God, quieting our hearts, listening to His Spirit, and following.