List-less Living

Learn to let go of a preconceived agenda or master list of things that must be – will be – done, and trust the Almighty's disposal of events, day by day, moment by moment.

By Amy Sparkman

Categories: Guidance

There's nothing quite like parenting to prove again and again that we can't be all things to all people or in more than one place at a time – yet, we often try to be that on a round-the-clock schedule. The freedom to let go of my earnest desire to stay organized and remember all the details and get everything done on time and do my best and smile and have all the answers and fix all the problems has always been there. But, the abundance of each day made life seem messy and cluttered and uncontrollable. The more I fell for that picture, the further out of reach that innate freedom drifted.

There's always more to do on my To-Do List than anyone could do in a month. For many years, I lived under three list-making illusions:

  1. write smaller so the list looks shorter
  2. make different lists for different categories of activity, such as phone calls, errands, job-related, home-related, future goals, ASAP items, Do-It-Nows
  3. rewrite the list regularly for better retention of what must be done; inevitably, rewriting will lead to reprioritizing or re-categorizing.

I got so good at keeping a list that I could see in my mind's eye exactly where specific items appeared on the paper – upper right-hand corner, lower left mid-point, 3rd item from the bottom, etc.

Although I became a master list-maker by the time I graduated from college, life only got faster and fuller. When the light finally broke through the dismal layers of effort and anxiety to show me the path leading away from list-making, it was oh-so-sweet! I caught a glimpse of what life could be: more relaxed, less driven, more stable, less harried, more purposeful, and less mindlessly time-consuming. The irony is laughable – nothing disappeared from the list other than my all-consuming attention to it. The same things needed to be done, but now they were taken care of naturally and fluidly, often creatively and unexpectedly.

As our children grow and their needs change from feeding, diapering, rocking, and protecting all the way to texting, dating, driving, and heading off on their own, we parents are experiencing a learning curve of our own. We're learning to let go of a preconceived agenda or master list of things that must be – will be – done, and trust the Almighty's disposal of events, day by day, moment by moment.

After all, we are fully engaged in the job of glorifying our Father – of singing His praises and of being true to His commandments. In other words, there is always something for us to do, but the fact is, all of our activities are impelled, prioritized and fulfilled through the grace of God. Deepening our understanding of God's power and presence, deepening our awareness of God in our midst, deepening our spiritual sense – our awareness of Truth, Life, and Love – frees us from the picture of limited time, energy, money, patience, flexibility, solutions…and lists of things to do. The promise and proof of this freedom is crystal clear in the Bible.

Such freedom starts with the conviction that, "Behold, it was very good," which God declared as each of the seven days of creation were fulfilled. It continues with the fact that "Behold, all things are created new," which assures us that Life is constantly unfolding new ideas, fresh perspective, and renewed energy. "I and my Father are one" affirms our direct and uninterrupted relationship to God, such that ideas are constantly emerging in consciousness to meet our needs. "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink" implores us to relinquish our worries in favor of trusting God, omnipotent Good, to care for every detail of daily life. "They toil not, neither do they bend" is a symbolic promise that life is not about trying so hard that we're actually crippled by our efforts. Then, we have the promise in Isaiah that we shall know "when to turn to the left and when to turn to the right" — in other words, we will be shown the precise way in which to accomplish whatever needs to be done. Finally, we must accept our God-given identity expressed in the words, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect." Jesus admonishes us to expect nothing less than complete freedom from anxiety or frenetic effort because our origin is perfection. "Amen!" is the seal of our faith in God's supreme power over our perpetual list of things to do.