Only One Chance at this Thing Called Life

I'm in the midst of discovering a lesson that is going to change my life profoundly.  It has the potential to radically change what I do with the most precious assest we have… time.  I'm not talking about the big chunks of it or the 5, 10, 15 year plans.  I mean every minute of every day.  This lesson is taking me one big leap farther in understanding that "my engineered life" is not about me at all.  It's an ongoing challenge of surrender of myself to the will of God but that surrender brings with it an undeniable freedom, joy, peace and purpose.  My life and my story will only be fulfilled when I completely surrender that it's about God's story and His role for me in it, and that now includes my every day moments.

My whole life I have struggled with saying no to helping with things.  I love being an active, involved, a fully participating member of anything and everything.  I love serving, going, and doing.  I love brainstorming new ideas and new activities but sometimes have trouble not being the one to implement everything myself.  I want to enjoy all of life with my husband.  I want to make the most of every minute of parenting I have with my toddler because I know these years don't last nearly as long as some of the days do.  We watch very little TV in our house and rarely see movies, not because I have anything against them, but because there are just too many other things we want to do besides sit still for long.  There's just one problem that comes with that… there are only 24 hours in the day.  No matter how good I can be at planning and organizing or how many cups of coffee or energy drinks I drink in a day, I cannot add a single minute to the day.  So when the to-do list gets too long and I have, yet again, over-committed myself to helping in too many areas, and the housework gets behind, I get stressed and my walk with God suffers.  All the areas that tug on me become a huge distraction from my focus on the grace of God and His plans. I find myself struggling to answer the same questions I have time and time again…  when do I say yes and when do I say no in order to make the most of my time with an eternal perspective?  How do I stay focused on my desire to continually honor and bring glory to God in all I do (or don't do)?  How should I be spending my days if this life is just not about me? 

So here's the lesson I'm learning.  I have been terribly mistaken about what I have considered to be obligations.  What things do you consider to be your obligations?  If you're like me, your list probably includes things like cleaning the house, running errands, attending birthday parties, lunches with friends, holiday get-togethers, work, etc.  So how do we find sanity and peace amidst all the things that keep us so busy?  How do we make the most of every day?  And most importantly, how do we actually fulfill our purpose to honor and gloryify God right where we are today?  I'm beginning to realize it starts with letting go of our all previous "obligations" and redefining what that word actually should mean in the Christian life.  Sure, many of the things on that list will still be accomplished and need to be for our homes to function, but here's the kicker...  God gets that!  He's not asking us to never do laundry again or stop cooking for our children or mopping our floors.  He's asking us to let Him lead us into realizing there is so much more to life than just the mundane stuff and there is so much joy that can be found in the mundane if our attitudes are aligned with God's purpose. What we are obligated to do should be limited to only that which He calls us to do, according to His purposes.  He's asking us to not be so preoccupied with lists and check boxes that we are unable to take a moment to exhale and and soak up all the beauty and blessings He is surrounding us with right now. 

So my challenge for myself, and you, as well is to apply the instruction to "pray without ceasing" to our to-do lists.  When we run our schedules through God's filter, then all those necessities will be taken care of with the right attitudes and with joy.  We won't miss out on the unique opportunities God has planned for us to partake in.  Our lives, though still busy, will be filled with obligations of purpose and eternal perspective! We will be busy, yes, but with so much more joy and peace because we will know that all our time and effort is spent with purpose!  We will only be saying yes to those things that God already planned for us to do.  

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
— Ephesians 2:10

I don't know about you, but this gets me excited!  But only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit can we discern the Godly good works from the good-looking works.  There are an endless number of good sounding things to get involved in and spend our time on, but we were created with a certain set of gifts, circumstances, relationships, etc so that we could give our all to a certain number of those good things.  I want so badly to learn how to trust Him on the minute by minute level so that I'm not wasting the talents He gave me!  I don't want to be so distracted by participating in the good-looking works that I completely miss out on the good works I need to be investing myself in! There is a motivating consequence to how we spend our time and efforts.

... for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire and fire will test what sort of work each has done.
— 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

The verses go on to describe that in the test of fire, if the work survives then we will receive a reward, but if the work burns up in the fire than we suffer loss, though we ourselves will still be saved. Though our salvation is not in question, our effectiveness to His kingdom, to sharing His amazing story of grace and love is at risk. We have to let God guide us through every single activity if we are really going to make the most of this limited life we've got and fulfill our purpose in His story. When that day comes, I hope I can stand before God and make the same proclamation found in Philippians 2:16. "And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain." 

We have too much to do to waste our time on anything that is not glorifying to God.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us through every activity every day, then we can have assurance that every action made is bringing us closer to Him, strengthening our faith and making a difference in the world around us. We can release ourselves from attending this or that out of guilt and a worldly view of obligation.  We can trust that the things God leads us to participate in will in fact build relationships and bring peace and joy into our every day lives and homes.  We can effectively spread His love and story of grace in everything we do.

It really comes down to a matter of trust in the details.  Do I truly trust God with my relationships?  Do I trust Him to help me successfully run our household, keep my husband and child well cared for and house clean?  Do I trust Him to lead me into the right areas of service and spread His love where He wants me to?  Do I trust Him with my time - all of it?  So let's learn how to de-clutter our lives and our calendars by trusting God to help us manage our days.  Who's with me?

My joy grows with every soul that seeks the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Remember, you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.
— John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life