Sitting here one week into the New Year many of us have grand aspirations for what we would like to accomplish. Wonderful! Setting goals is a good practice, I would even say a great practice. It refines our habits, establishes our priorities and leads us toward who we are designed to be. When we plan and our days go smoothly reaching our goals is measurably easier. However, how are we supposed to measure our goals when our days do not go as planned? After all, we serve a God who tells us things like this:
“A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45
In other words…sometimes our days are not up to us.
Even with all of our best intentions in place, we cannot control if we get stuck in traffic, the basement floods or the boss walks in with an unexpected request. To-do lists become trash when our children get sick or the car breaks down. And even on days when all the practical pieces may be in place, your heart or your mind may simply not be. We are not finely tuned robots intended to function optimally at all times and we do not exist in a world where we can control everything that happens to us. We are human beings living in an unpredictable world. Some days we are just a hot mess driving the struggle bus.
Not too long ago I had one of those struggle bus kind of days. Part of the day I think I was driving, but most of the day it just seemed to be running me over. It was one of those days when I had planned to be really productive but things just simply weren’t going that way. Tasks were taking me longer than intended, people (read: tiny children) were needing more from me than was typical, and mechanical things in my life were not cooperating. Each time I passed the to-do list on my table it mocked me, “See what you didn’t get done today, lady?” Sadly, as so often happens, I had been seduced by the idea that checking boxes equals a successful day. That productivity was the measure of my value and my life.
I had let my goals become gods.
When my husband walked in from work that evening he asked, “How was your day?” When I had finished attempting to convince him of what a failure I was he said,
“Okay. Did you love Jesus today?” Uh, yes.
“Did you love others?” As best I could.
“Then no big deal. That’s all you are supposed to do in a day.”
Relief washed over me like a tidal wave. Not because my husband is some kind of genius but because he spoke a very simple truth we often forget. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, our two most important tasks are:
Love God. Love others.
So please, go ahead and plan. Prioritize. Dream big dreams. Set goals and listen for the incredible ways that God wants to use you. However, on the days when life takes a left remember that ultimately there are only two things that He put on your list and both of those are in your control. Love God. Love others. Get back to your to-do list tomorrow. I promise it will still be there.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40