I’d have made a good Pharisee. I love lists. Further, I love checking off my lists. I love looking at all that I’ve accomplished in a given period of time. It makes me feel productive. It makes me feel powerful and in control of something in my life (With three kids, I’ll take a little control anyway I can get it.)
Sure, there is some benefit to creating “To Do” lists (or if I’m delegating to my husband “Honey Do” lists). The six loads of laundry get reduced to three (check), at least for a day or so. The explosion of papers on my desk gets distributed into something resembling order (check) until tomorrow’s mail arrives or my son comes home from school with supply requests or field trip forms. And a friend or family member gets a birthday card (check). Eventually. The point is, things do get done. The problem comes when I start living for my lists.
My kids have a mantra for me in the car when we’re driving. I ask them to remind me frequently especially when we get stuck behind the tourist train of vehicles that parade around Orlando looking for anything remotely Mickey oblivious to those who live here and have somewhere to be. I think the only time I actually grind my teeth is when I’m stuck behind an out-of-state plate in a two-lane no passing zone going 25 in a 40. It almost always occurs when I’m running late for an appointment. Then I hear the melodic mantra from the back seat, “God’s in control, Mommy.” I close my eyes (briefly so I don’t kiss the tourist’s fender in front of me), try to implement my yoga breathing, and remind myself that being two minutes late for an appointment isn’t fatal.
Sometimes I think I live just to get through the next thing on my list. To check another thing off. I’m so busy trying to finish that I don’t enjoy the process. For example, some of you know that I homeschool my two girls. We just finished up a unit on Christopher Columbus. It was amazing. Did you know that Columbus never touched the shores of the U.S.? He never even knew there was a North America. And we have a national holiday for the guy! Plus, we learned about tradewinds in the Atlantic (they’re circular by the way and one of the reasons we get hurricaines in Florida from the African coast), and that Mars has two moons named Deimos and Phobos. But nothing stood out more winningly to me than when my 9-year-old, while doing the unit presentation for her daddy, said she wanted to be like Columbus because the Italian waited 10 years before getting his first commission to sail to the New World and that she too never wanted to give up on her dreams. (Pardon me while I grab a tissue.)
Now, if I had been wholey consumed on just checking off my homeschool curriculum list each day, I wonder if my daughter would have gotten that last point.
My own personal growth is what I think I want to hurry through the quickest. I hate the fact that it takes time to change habits. I’ve dropped about 28 pounds in the last three years because I changed my eating habits. Twenty-eight pounds in three years, you say? That’s nothing. It is when you keep it off. It is when you’re in better shape at 48 than you were at 18. But now that I’ve arrived, I forget how much work I had to put in to make that happen, how much mental and physical discipline it took.
I long to transfer that same concept to my spiritual growth. We all have spiritual “love handles”, areas of the heart that plague us. We know them better than anyone. Everytime we look in the mirror of God’s Word, they glare back at us. We long for spiritual lyposuction. We long for someone to staple our stomachs so we stop ingesting the audio and visual garbage that makes us spiritually weak and fat. We want the quick fix, the pill that will melt away all our temptations. But habits don’t change that way. We don’t change that way.
I want God to change me now. No, I want God to change me yesterday. But He tells me over and over, “Chill”. “Relax.” “Enjoy the ride.” So I’m trying to let time be my friend. It really is a love-hate relationship. Sometimes the sands of time squish between my toes like a walk on the beach. Other times they feel like tiny boulders in my shoes that I can’t stop to shake out. Either way, I’m working at it. I’m working on accepting it. Working on being resigned to the fact that it will take time for me to change unhealthy thinking and conceding that it will take time to alter compulsive behaviors.
I know I won’t ever stop making lists, but maybe I can limit them to the physical stuff–cleaning out my car, putting last year’s Christmas décor away, or picking up the week-old ferret droppings under my desk. ‘Cause one day, I’d like to stand before God doing my unit presentation and make him smile (or grab a tissue) because I didn’t focus on the fact that I finished the project he assigned me (check!), but that I learned the intrinsic and invaluable lessons he was trying to teach me along the way.