I’ve already admitted that I’m a planner, so naturally I am a maker of “to do” lists. Once I have created said list however, the problems begin. I created the list, I brought it to life, so to speak – but now my list takes on a life of its own. We are locked in a battle for control. Am I the boss of my list or is my list the boss of me?
Hard to tell sometimes, I’m sure. I mean I made the list, but now the list is running my life. (well, at least my day) I tell my list that I brought her into this world and I can take her out of it (as I point threateningly towards the trash can) but she is not alarmed. She knows I would never throw her out without crossing each of her entries off the list. And this will take time. More time than I have.
Because she knows this about me. I make lists longer than there are hours in the day to actually do what is on my “to do” list at any given time . My list knows there will be carry over. She will live to see another day. She knows she is in no danger of me “trashing” her.
What other options are open to me? Cross items off the list that I did not actually do? No, she knows when I cheat and will not allow it. She overwhelms me with guilt and will not relent until I make things right, either by putting the entry back on the list or actually accomplishing said task.
Creating a “to do” list is supposed to simplify my life, or at least my day. But because my list takes on a life of her own, this is not the case. I have to justify my entries to her, then clarify them. I find myself trying to pacify my list when her insistence on me sticking to her plan (which was originally my plan until I wrote it down) is being met with resistance from me. If I cannot mollify her or rectify the situation, then I will simply defy her.
Clarifying, justifying, pacifying, mollifying, rectifying, defying – it’s exhausting. Am I really going to let my “to do” list run my day or ruin it? It started out with such promise, but now she is just a reminder of all that I failed to accomplish today. I don’t want to keep her around. She just lies there, silently showing me all that I didn’t get done today. I’m wishing I had never created her in the first place. Without my list to accuse me, who’s to say whether my day was productive or unproductive?
“to do” lists are mainly made up of the most mundane things anyway. So who needs them? I mean the entries are things such as, “take Fluffy to vet, get groceries, put trash out, pay bills, cut grass, return emails . . . “. I never see entries like, “have mountain top experience, receive promotion, lay on beach, read book, invent next big thing, cure cancer, move mountain, climb mountain, hike Appalachian trail . . . etc.”
Then I realize, those are entries for a different list, what we call a “bucket list.” But it’s the “to do” list that runs my life, not my “bucket list.” That list gets tucked away somewhere and forgotten while my “to do” list and I duke it out every day to see who’s in control. I have created a monster and now I must deal with her.
It occurs to me that I have given my “to do” list too much power and I must now take it back. But how? By refusing to let her have the final say. The words, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) run through my mind. I may plan my course of action by making a “to do” list, but I need to remember that God may have other plans for me and He will determine my steps, not my list.
Jeremiah 10:23 confirms this, saying, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.”
Rather than letting my self-created “to do” list rule over my day, I know I would be better off to “Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; in all my ways I should acknowledge Him, so that He can direct my paths.” (and not my “to do” list) (Proverbs 3:5-6)
My “to do” list is made up of such mundane things, I am always grateful when God overrules it with His own divine agenda. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) I am better off with God directing my daily steps than I am following my list.
Or maybe I should invite God into my list making? Add some entries such as “Be still and know that I am God.”, “Feed My sheep.”, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”, “pray without ceasing”, or “give thanks in all circumstances.” Now that’s a list!
What to do with my “to do” list? I can trash it or I can let God transform it. I can let it become the boss of me or I can acknowledge that my Heavenly Father is the better boss of me than my list or than I am of myself.
With God as the Maker of my daily list, I will be better able to redeem the time and order my days aright, that I might gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
And as a bonus, there is no guilty carry over from the day before’s list. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Just what I want. Just what I need. A fresh start, a clean slate, a second chance with a new kinder, gentler “to do” list, hopefully guided more by God and less by me. The mundane may still be on my list, but God is at work – His miracles made manifest amid the mundane of my everyday. My mustard seed is enough.
sincerely, Grace Day