I am a girl who loves a good list. Long before Erin Condrin, Daytimers, The Bullet Journal, and Trello, before agenda planners were even a thing, I made my own out of a ten-cent spiral notebook. It dictated my day, and my life. It always sat on top of my junior high book pile, the crowning jewel of what I was to accomplish, and what I considered my identity.
But one of the many lessons from the last three years with heart failure is that I have learned to let God work outside of time, outside of my schedule. So I don’t usually have lists in my blog, or even directions or suggestions. No clickable titles. No how-to’s from a seasoned pro. No Six Ways to Live Your Best Life.
I don’t write my blog entry over my lunch hour, and maybe that’s why you can’t always digest it over yours. With the end in clear sight, I’m still trying to make sense of this life.
Ten years ago, even three years ago, I would have written a blog like that. But chronic disease has taught me that life can’t always be boiled down into a list to complete, an action item to schedule, or a box to check. Pre-illness, I was the worst about this. I lived years from sticky note to sticky note.
But even after raising three children into their twenties and teaching parenting classes for the court system, I haven’t been able to enumerate a relationship method with my kids. So how could I possibly expect to shrink my relationship with my God into one?
When Jesus condensed the most famous list in history into just two commands, He knew we would struggle. He knew we were more comfortable with a comprehensive list that we could control, one literally written in stone. But He also knew that to become more like Him, to be drawn into a real relationship with our God, we needed to grow beyond that. So He funneled all of life into two overflowing commands that could never be fully checked off without the help of the Holy Spirit.
JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter, is a Christian and had several references to Christianity in her fiction series, including a personal favorite of mine from Matthew, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” She says, “Personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement.” And I believe she knows, as a Christian, that personal happiness involves the joy of living for something beyond this life. But first, we have to shake the list mentality.
It is not an easy transition for a list lover. It frustrates deep in the soul and can render you helpless and unable to move forward. Much like blanks left unfilled on a lecture handout in college. How can I possibly forge ahead without the page complete?
Lists are a method of trying to grasp some control over this unpredictable life, and just further our self-reliant mentality. It distracts us from our real mission and purpose: messy love to imperfect people.
If becoming more like Christ is on our list, when can we ever check it off? If it ‘s not on our list, why not?
Life brings you to your knees, the only position you can be in to truly see that He is God, and we are not. But often all we focus on is getting to our feet. And we search and search for a method or formula to make getting back up easy or at least explainable. We want our to-do list, our boxes to check. We want all the blanks to be filled in with the correct answer.
From my journal a few months ago:
Even now, as far as I have come and as amazing as my progress and survival have been, I still have so many unanswered questions. Statistics tell me how this ends, but I continue to believe that I live and operate outside of those figures. Will I ever get past the fatigue and uneasy feeling? Does it mean something or is this my new normal? I take my list of questions to every appointment, hoping to get answers, and when I don’t, they stay on the list for the next time. Truth is, the doctors just don’t know. Heart failure is a very inexact science. I am not fond of inexact. I can handle just about anything, as long as I know what to expect. My future seems very fuzzy and undefined. This is foreign territory for me on so many levels.
So my blog won’t give you a quick list to complete or a fast formula for success.
I don’t have this Christian living boiled into bullet points. I’m still learning. Even if I felt like I knew, my bullet points would likely look different from yours, or change for me tomorrow. Life is fluid.
And this ever-changing life is a marathon, a novel, a full-length film. It is not a one-and-done scenario. Now, more than ever, I am learning to trust in the long term. Even when, especially when, the short term comes in heavy, sharp chunks.
As I continually learn to live within the limitations of heart failure, I want His costly grace to be sufficient. I want His power to be perfectly evident in my weakness, in my unchecked boxes, my empty blanks, my half-done lists.
But it’s not an easy conversion. I work on it every single day. I tap into the bottomless reservoir of grace and often dip out far more than my fair share. My God knows and understands this struggle. And the Spirit attends.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Siri just sent me another reminder.