Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes in her book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, that this was the number one lie the women she surveyed identified with.
Can you relate? Boy, I sure can! When I take a minute to look at my calendar for today, for this coming weekend, for next week, for next month, my chest tightens and my heart rate accelerates. Gotta do a little Lamaze breathing to just prevent a panic attack. How am I ever going to get everything on my list done? And I live a relatively simple, small-town life!
Nancy writes: "There is virtually never time in a twenty-four-hour day for me to do everything that is on everyone else's 'to do' list for me. There is seldom time to do everything that is on my own 'to do' list....What a relief to realize I don't have to do all those things! The Truth is that all I have to do is the work God assigns to me. What a freedom it has been for me to accept that there is time for me to do everything that is on God's 'to do' list for my day, for my week, and for my life!"
The problem I struggle with is figuring out just what is God's "to do" list for me for today. I have personal desires on my list: teach; swim; write; read this book; finish the laundry. Others also have things to add to my list: pick up shampoo for the upstairs bathroom; review this essay; fix dinner; drop these DVDs off at the movie store; check on Mrs. So-n-so. None of these are bad things, but how many of them truly are on God's list, not just mine?
There is also the challenge of, um, let's call it fluidity. Life is a fluid, like water in a river - moving, ever changing. What may not be God's will for me today, in this season of life, may very well be exactly what He wants me to invest my time in at a different season. I can't just check something off my list today - Nope, not called to do that! Mark it off the list! - and be done with it forever. It may pop up again later, at a time when I need to add that particular commitment or activity to my list. There is this on-going consideration and analysis of "what's on the list today."
Then, there is the challenge of receiving and processing input from others, particularly others whose godly wisdom and insight I respect and value. Maybe they see something that should be on my "to do" list that I've overlooked or neglected. Maybe, because of their own personal desires, they are counseling me to add something to the list that God has not assigned to me, at least not yet.
Just figuring out the "to do" list can be a gnarly puzzle, in and of itself - never mind actually getting to the business of checking things off!
So what is my strategy so far in this struggle to redeem the time given me, hopefully in the way God wants? First, I say "no" a lot - I figure that will keep me from unwittingly taking on assignments I was never supposed to tackle. Plus, it's easier to come back later and say "Yes" - easier than undoing a rash commitment. Still, I don't say "no" enough. And, yes, I sometimes wrestle with guilt when I say "no" - feeling bad for disappointing someone else's expectations, or for not meeting a need that I could meet if I were dedicated to doing so. I know much of that is false guilt, but it's still not always easy to shrug off.
I try to pray about my day before I get out of bed, before the "to do" list pushes in like a barking Drill Instructor. And I try to take some time during the day to be mentally quiet, to try to silence the engines in my head - not time to review the "to do" list or reorganize my priorities, but to just still my thoughts.
I mess up a lot. Over-commit, to myself and/or others. Thoughtlessly add something to the list without pausing to ask, "Lord, is this something you want me to do today?" Run too hard, too fast, and end up crashing.
One of the great beauties to me of Glory is that we will finally be free of the pressure of time. We will have all the time we need, to do all the things God has planned for us. But I guess that's what Nancy DeMoss is saying - we already have all the time we need to do all the things God has planned for us. Again, I am struck by the truth that the Kingdom IS, and the Kingdom IS TO COME. And, as I consider the tasks facing me today, I pray that more and more I will live in light of the reality that Christ IS King - today, tomorrow, and forever - King of me, of my "to do" list, and of my time.
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." - John 17:4