At All Times-Psalm 34:1

December 10, 2009

To Do or Not to Do: That’s not the Question

Filed under: Personal Reflections — by Whitney Standlea @ 2:35 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

After reading Tacky the Penguin for the sixth time to my toddler, I can’t believe its still another forty minutes until nap time.  I keep asking, “Do you want to go to nighty-night?” An emphatic head shake tells me “NO!” for the second time. What toddler would want to take a nap early anyway? I don’t want to play ball, peek-a-boo, or read another book because the to-do list over on the computer desk is consuming me! If these little boys will just go to sleep then I can finally get something done around here.

I don’t know if anyone else can identify with this common scenario in my world. It seems like my drive to run that pencil through another item on my list is so over-powering that there are many mornings (that’s the time it hits the worst) that I can’t enjoy playtime or anytime with my kids. [After all, cultivating language, developing worldviews, disciplining young hearts, and satisfying curiosity through exploration aren’t really things you can check off a list. ]

If I’m suppose to be enjoying and knowing God, but I’m going crazy till nap time then something isn’t right in my heart. During a week (not too long ago) that I was struggling especially hard with this, something from a Desiring God Blog post caught my eye: “What is the most important principle for productivity?” My heart leap, What is it! Oh to be more productive! Although the post was related to productivity in the organizational setting, I still consider my home to be a “business” that I “manage.” The Desiring God Directory of Strategy, David Mathis responds with an answer that was so helpful to me:

“I would actually say: realize that you don’t have to be productive. By this I mean: your significance does not come from your productivity. It comes from Christ, who obeyed God perfectly on our behalf such that our significance and standing before God comes from him, not anything we do. Then, on that basis, we pursue good works (which is what productivity is) and do so eagerly, as it says in Titus 2:14.” (read whole interview)

I can’t do anything to merit God’s favor. I knew that already, right? But I take a lot of pride in being efficient and hardworking. When I haven’t gotten anything done at the end of the day (or at least anything on my list), I feel like I wasted the day. If I wasted a day, I must be a failure before God. I spend most of my days measuring my success by my productivity. It looks like this:

Greater Productivity (More chores done, more calls made, more bills paid)=Greater success

Feeling successful makes me feel happy. I feel right with God and right with the world. I think this is pushing the line with that great heresy of replacing the righteousness of Christ with that of good works. Dare I really think I can add to my standing before God by my own merit?

The fact of the matter is that my definitions are all messed up. I should measure my “success” for the day in whether or not I was able to enjoy God and seek Him through each and everything I did (planned or unplanned). That means the extra mess from a massive diaper explosion is just one more opportunity to serve my children (and know the God who came to serve), the five dozen times of reading The Three Little Pigs is just one more opportunity to spill out love on my children (and enjoy the God who gave them to me). At the end of the day, I should hope to have spent it abiding in Christ. If that was my focus for the day, then I know where I stand before God-even if (UHG!) my to-do list is longer than it was at 7:00 AM.

So, I do believe that if enjoying God is the great battle of the Christian life, a key part of that must be getting rid of “productivity” as  a measure of success for the day. That would (as I have found this week) free me to enjoy doing “nothing” with the kids, and bid away the cloud of stress and despair when the unexpected comes my way. It would also serve as a hedge against meritocracy.

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