Confessions of a To-Do List Addict

I’m embarrassed to tell you how I responded when someone recently asked me what I like to do for fun…

“Well,” I stammered, “I like to cross things off my To-Do List.”

I could tell she wasn’t impressed.

“Yeah, right,” she said, thinking maybe I was just joking. “But what do you do for FUN?!”

I offered a few lame remarks about watching football games and eating out with friends, but the conversation pretty much went downhill after that.

Hey, I was just being honest. The truth of the matter is, I really do take pleasure in productivity—“getting things done.” What’s wrong with that?

I would love to hear your comments and observations about this addiction, for I’m still trying to break free from its destructive clutches.

Have you ever found yourself addicted to crossing off things on your To-Do List? Or maybe you’re living with someone else who struggles with this insidious problem.

Here are some preliminary conclusions I’ve come up with:

  1. It’s great to get things done if they are the RIGHT things. However, PEOPLE are God’s greatest priority, and many of the things on our To-Do List have nothing whatsoever to do with impacting people in a meaningful way. Our priorities need to be brought in alignment with His priorities (Mark 12:28-34).
  2. Addiction to our To-Do List is often a symptom of performance-based spirituality. In other words, we think God or people will somehow LOVE us more if we stay busy and accomplish a lot. Yet the Bible’s doctrine of GRACE teaches just the opposite: God loves us just because He loves us, not because of anything we do or don’t do.
  3. Although there are things God wants us to DO, He first wants us to BE. He created us primarily as human BE-ings, not human DO-ings. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasized our IDENTITY before our WORKS. Before engaging in efforts to “please God,” we’re told to recognize who we ARE: salt, light, and His beloved children (Matthew 5:13-16).
  4. Deep rest is impossible as long as we remain addicted to our To-Do List. Have you noticed that your To-Do List is never really completed? No matter how many items you cross off, there are always more to add. Recognizing our tendency to get stuck on this endless treadmill of striving and workaholism, God COMMANDS us to enter His rest (Exodus 20:8-11, Matthew 11:28-30, Hebrews 4:1-10, etc.).
  5. Addiction to our To-Do List is devastating to our social life. Here’s a very practical example: If you’re a single person who struggles with this, your dating life is going to suck until you get delivered.

Now I feel better after sharing my heart with you. I can cross “Writing a Blog Post” off today’s To-Do List…

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If We Kill Time, Will God Resurrect It?

I grew up believing the maxim, “If you waste a minute, you’ll never get it back.” No wonder I have tendencies to be a workaholic, struggling to have days off, take regular vacations, or even enjoy a lazy, unproductive evening.

Although I’ve made some progress in reversing this mindset in recent years, the whole issue got triggered again when I called a friend recently and asked him what he was doing. “Oh, I’m just killing time tonight,” he said.

Killing time? I found myself wanting to scream inside. How could anyone want to kill something as sacred and holy as time? Hadn’t my friend read Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5:16 that we should make the most of our time?

But before blurting out anything stupid, I caught myself. I started having flashbacks of all the ways God had tried to deal with me on this issue over the years.

I remembered my first year in law school, when I studied nearly all my waking hours, seven days a week. Despite this heroic commitment to my studies, my GPA was less than 2.5—just a C+.

I wanted to do better my final two years, but it seemed impossible. I had already worked my hardest, just to get mediocre results.

When I asked the Lord for a new strategy, I was shocked by His advice. “Jim, you need to take a day off every week. No work…no studies…a day with no agenda.”

I was horrified. What terrible advice! I thought. If I only got a C average while studying seven days a week, how would things getting any better if I worked only six days?

Despite my misgivings, I followed God’s direction during my final two years—and the results were dramatic. To my amazement, I suddenly became an A student, one of the top performers in my class. I even won an award for being the most improved student!

Little did my professors know my secret: studying less and making sure to “kill time” each week.

This experience was a powerful message from God about the “sabbath principle”—the fact that having six days of work with His blessing can be more productive than seven days without His blessing.

Yet I’ll admit, I still hate to see time go to waste. And I still need God to change my perspective on what truly constitutes a “waste” of time.

At age 40, Moses fled from Egypt and spent 40 years taking care of sheep in the wilderness. If that were me, I would feel like my life was wasting away. But that’s not how God looked at things. This 40-year period of obscurity was part of the Lord’s training ground for Moses’ next 40 years, when he would lead the Israelites through the wilderness toward their Promised Land.

But the subject of wasting time came up again recently when I received an email from a friend who was going through a divorce after 10 years of marriage. “I feel like she just wasted 10 years of my life, Jim,” my friend wrote in frustration.

What would you say to person in this kind of situation, who feels as if someone else has “killed time” that will never be regained? Fortunately, the Scriptures provide this great promise about what God can do when we fully turn to Him after suffering losses:

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust (Joel 2:25).

Isn’t that incredible? God not only can restore lost minutes, but He even can give us back lost years. Wow.

So if you’ve seen some of your time killed, whether through your own actions or by someone else, don’t despair. God can turn things around. His favor can reverse your losses. He can restore lost time in astounding ways.

The starting point is to make sure you’ve truly put your time in God’s hands (Psalm 31:15). Then get ready for a resurrection of your “dead” time, your lost hopes, and your abandoned dreams. Nothing committed to Him is ever wasted.

 

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