I'm a checklist person from a family of check-list people.
When I was a kid and my family was on vacation, we kept a white board in the kitchen where we'd write up all the activities we planned to tackle each day: tennis, hike up nearby "mountain" (AKA hill), waterski, chop wood. We'd knock out one activity and head for the next. Our neighbours on the lake would tease us about how our household was really "Camp Bradley" since we had the activity range and schedule of a real-deal kids' summer camp. We only lacked the counsellors and blow-horn to signal when it's time to switch from one to the next. At dinner-time we'd congratulate ourselves as we checked off our list: tennis? Done. Swim? Done. Chores? Done. Ticking off the components of our wonderful summer day.
I grew up thinking this level of activity was pretty much normal; it was just How Things Were. As I got older I of course realized that other people vacationed differently. For some, a stack of magazines and a hammock meant vacation - a space fully free of lists and constraints. Rest was the recreation: an open day with meandering, decide-as-you-go endeavours.
I'm a productive person, by nurture and nature. My energy's usually in good supply... And I like to get things done; my checked-off-list brings real satisfaction. Not just on summer vacation- all the time. When I discovered it could be overkill, that being activity-driven had its downsides... I was first surprised and then dismayed. As I began to see value in slowing down at times and letting life unfold more organically, I thought maybe I'd gotten it wrong all these years. Everyone had their idols, and mine was productivity. Now what? I had to fix myself.
That side of the equation is wrong too, of course. I know that now. There's no correct way to be, no correct way to tackle life. Instead, there are as many right ways as there are humans on this planet. Our own default modes, tendencies, temptations.
Truth is, I do have to fight my productivity idol; I'll have to fight that beast my whole life. But alternatives can be equally problematic. I could have a laziness idol, instead, and if I did I'd be fighting that monster. Or a fear idol, or a tendency toward apathy. Maybe one of these is your idol - or maybe it's another one altogether.
In the end it's the same for each of us because we're given the same command: live well. Make the most of our gifts and energies, but don't let them master us. Be energetic and not lazy, stewarding our lives well and please God, living out what he's given us. But don't be overly driven to accomplish or succeed. What we do we do for his glory, not our own. Not for the check-mark-rush that comes with "done." We are not our activities after all, and there are no bonus points for rushing through. We are called to notice and savour too, and relationship is more important than doing things. Relationship, ultimately (with God and others) is the most important thing of all. And there is no checkmark for that, nor can be.
This week I'm joining the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung, for our weekly writing adventure. Please click here to learn about Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is, “Done.”
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