I saw a meme on Pinterest recently that, like many popular memes (popular because much of the populace relates to them, I suppose!) made me smile and nod, “That’s definitely for me!” I dutifully repinned it.
In all honesty, this is the kind of meme to which I generally roll my eyes and unflatteringly mimic the infamous Grumpy Cat as I glower and grumble:
If I don’t email grocery lists to myself, I go shopping for fridge and pantry staples – you know, things necessary for survival – and walk out with uninspired wall art, greeting cards to send who-knows-who for no occasion at all, and a pack of gum and cherry lip balm on sale at checkout. If I don’t make a note in my iPhone that specifically reads: “Fold laundry,” “Reply to so-and-so’s email,” and “Wish Grandma Happy Birthday,” those things probably won’t get done.
I bet if this were the Middle Ages, my surname might very well be “Listmaker.” I can’t bake bread, I can’t operate a mill, nor can I build walls (“Mason” is my mother’s maiden name, so I assume wall-building or mortar-laying constitutes part of my family tree, just not any branch close to me!), but give me tasks that need to be completed and I will construct one impressive to-do list!
Last week I was watching Joyce Meyer on one of the Christian TV networks, and she said something that resonated with me just like that “Keep Calm” meme:
“The flesh loves check marks.”
This portion of her message was addressing a prevalent mentality among the body of Christ, that of a well-meaning yet works-based religion that tracks, measures, and counts every deed we do, mistake we make, and scripture we scan every day.
Mrs. Meyer chuckled about a time in her life when she set out to follow a “Read the Bible in One Year” plan and post her daily reading assignments and progress – denoted by check marks – on her refrigerator. For the first few days, her refrigerator record made her feel pretty darn pious. She was reading what she was supposed to when she was supposed to, and the daily check-off was becoming an instantaneous ego boost. But soon enough, she fell behind.
Days went by, then weeks. Mrs. Meyers skulked shamefully by her refrigerator, realizing that her reading plan, once gleaming with gold stars, had been transformed into a veritable archive of condemnation, documenting her very impious and undisciplined behavior. This was not what a relationship with God was supposed to look or feel like.
The flesh does love check marks, doesn’t it? Last week I laughed aloud as I read an author admit that she too adds “to-do’s” to lists retroactively for the pure satisfaction of striking through or erasing them. (And I thought I was the only one!) Feel free to offer a contrary opinion, but I don’t feel that this sort of list-making is wrong or unhealthy (Eccentric? Maybe…). It’s when we view and treat sacred time with God and time spent mining the treasures of His Word like an obligatory trip to the grocery store, a grueling homework assignment, or a mundane household chore that I believe we unwittingly allow our innate, humanistic habits and inclinations, rooted in sin, to override our grace-imparted, God-like attributes and affections, rooted in Christ.
In my walk with Christ, the times I have set an alarm to pray (right below my alarm to get to my eye appointment, make my flight, etc), determined to journal my prayers every day, or help three complete strangers during my errands, I’ve felt the least content. These “good deeds” felt empty, forced, and somehow seemed to distance me from God because I was being motivated to do them by the wobbly will of my old self rather than by the overflowing heart of a new creature captivated by grace.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2nd Corinthians 5:17, NASB
When I stop focusing on what I need to do to be “more Christian” and instead focus on the Christ Himself, everything changes effortlessly. I wake up to pray without setting an alarm. I write and journal as I feel led, and when I do, the words actually minister to me and I read them back with discernment. I strike up conversations with strangers that may bless them more than I realize, and all I did was smile, speak pleasantly, and let the Holy Spirit take it from there.
I’ll always be a list-maker. I’ll always feel gratified deleting items from my iPhone notes. And that’s okay for the minutiae of day-to-day activities. But I will never feel satisfied or fulfilled when I quantify the things of God’s Kingdom, when I struggle to stuff the spiritual into a stiff and stifling schedule.
Living for my King and exalting His Son who died to save and set me free is the overarching, Number One item on my to-do list, and it is the only thing I will never, ever, ever erase.
Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di