March 11, 2016

The Only Thing that Counts

How do you measure the worth of a day?
What’s your criterion for ‘a good day’?

Most of my life I’ve kept journals—recording happenings, feelings, revelations, and just plain history.  They’ve become repositories of words that track my life.  When I was young I wrote of actual things that were happening.  Things that seem mostly mundane now, or overrated, or downright silly: “Today is Friday.  I played at the shale pit and took Heather to see the fort and to feed the geese…I watched Brady Bunch and Partridge Family.  They were not re-runs.” [March 16, 1973]

These days journaling is mostly a record of my inner life and of God’s words intersecting my own thoughts in ways that beg to be recorded.  But at night before I turn out the light, there is a book for the little things, the happenings, just a few lines per day.  I’m not sure why I keep it, really. “What did I do today?” is a pretty mundane question at this stage in my life. [I need perhaps another question that would help me milk the beauty of the day for the record, if you have any suggestions?] Though this book comes in handy for verifying dates when ‘such and such’ happened I’m not sure why I feel compelled to keep jotting down things in it every night, as though the day doesn’t ‘count’ unless I’ve recorded something here.

My measure of a day’s worth is pretty warped.  I feel good about a day if I’ve checked off the things I’ve chosen as priorities.  If I’ve spent time in the Word, if I’ve done a bit of writing, if I’ve created something, and if I’ve spent some time reading a good book…these things frame the essentials of a ‘good’ day. My ‘to-do’ list is pretty basic.  You can no doubt see some glaring deficiencies with it.  So can I.  Some ‘givens’ are simply not listed…feeding my husband for instance! Getting exercise. Praying. And there are other priorities that don’t lend themselves to a check-off list, relationships, for instance.

But the question I’ve been asking this week is: How does God evaluate the worth of a day’s accomplishments? My checked off lists, mental or written, console me that the day wasn’t wasted.  Does He see it that way?  Or can lists become false comforts, distractions even, from the opportunities that matter most? If my list takes priority over the things that pose as interruptions but are really God-sent moments, what then?  Where do random conversations fit? or the phone call that catches me ‘in the middle of something’?  What of interruptions, sick days, and changes of plan outside my control?  Do these ‘count’ in the valuation of a day? Or are they just irritants that prevent me from ‘getting stuff done’?

Though their value is not quantifiable or visible the value of these unplanned moments may far surpass the value of reading # pages toward my monthly goal, or adding a daily doodle to my portfolio.  Hindsight shows that it’s the interruptions to my routines that have brought flavor and richness to my life.  (Thank God for a husband that drags me away from my desk to ride and to ski and to sit in the sun!)  In retrospect I am thankful for the non-routine elements that shape my days. I see in them God’s hand going about His work to rub off my sharp edges, to mellow my compulsions, to bring me delight and shower me with undeserved mercies.  They remind me that it is not my work but His that matters most.  The orderly things over which I claim control are the least likely to build my faith.  Of course, being faithful in the small things matters, but this is different than being compulsive about the small things! If I do them to bolster my self-worth or gain ‘brownie points’ for my diligence while neglecting weightier things (like relationships) they have become dead works, a waste of time and energy!

There remains a sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Heb.4:9,10

What matters most to God is not my compulsive need to be ‘doing something’ but my persistence in the hope of the Gospel, that teaches me that it’s what God did that matters most and my role is to believe and to rest in the reality that Christ has done all the right things in my place. He has finished the work that matters most. The real ‘to-do’ list is done.

He has canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Col.2:14

This changes the way I operate.  I will probably always be a list person. I work best with goals and schedules.  But these do not measure the worth of a day or a lifetime.  Complete or incomplete they do not establish my worth or a day’s value. Faith does. In inviting me to share His yoke Jesus calls me to walk by faith, to allow Him to direct and energize the good works He has prepared for me to walk in. He must be Lord of my ‘to-do-today’ lists, with the right to cancel them all and re-direct my focus completely.  They are not the measure of a ‘good day’. 

The only thing that counts is faith
expressing itself through love


By faith…I can still establish priorities and carry them out, but also by faith I can welcome interruptions, alternatives, and days when nothing ‘gets done’.  I can trust that God is working where my best efforts are stymied, and that He will enable me to do what He wills me to accomplish.  By faith every day can be a good day.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Phil.2:13NLT

The obvious question becomes how do I know whether I’m operating out of faith in the mundane of day-to-day?  Where’s the evidence that I’m actually depending on God as I go about my work?

I’d love to hear your feedback on this question.  So far what I’ve come up with are these two attributes that will be present in a day walked out by faith.  Can you suggest others?

  • Thankful prayerfulness—The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  (Phil.4:5-7)  Faith expresses itself in praying without ceasing, committing what I am doing to Him, and even welcoming what I didn’t intend to be doing, in His name.  Talking to Him about everything with a thankful disposition reflects faith.
  • Peace of mind—a deep seated contentment with the way things are at this moment, even with the things that need to change eventually, reflects faith.  There is a patience in faith that reflects the knowledge that God is in control and will accomplish all that concerns me in His perfect time.  He is the Head of the Body.  He orchestrates its growth as its members are yielded to each other and to Him.  And He gives the ones who trust Him peace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil4:7) 

And those are qualities I want to be the measure of my days! 
I’d very much appreciate your prayers that they would be so.

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest!” Heb.4:11


Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Ps.25:4,5

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:  May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.  But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1,2,20,21

Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ. Col.3:23,24



meema said...

Not sure I could add anything to this rich and lovely meal of thought.

I had to chuckle about being CLM (Compulsive List Maker). It’s a marker for a certain personality type of which I am one. Sometimes I’m over the top too - if I do something that wasn’t on the list, I add it so I can cross it off. But, as I think you understand, it’s okay. We are who and what God made us to be, warts and all. Where the rubber meets the road is, at the point of surrender, all we are becomes His vessel to use as His sees fit. Sometimes it’s big stuff but mostly it is so tiny you don’t even recognize it. And that is because He is doing something for someone else through your smallness.

My daily lists are functional and highly subject to revision here in my waning years. When the kids were little I journaled to find some kind of sense and beauty and reason for the madness. Now I blog to find out what I think. What I think is that my prayer life has evolved. I pray less for specifics now. I pray mostly to be delivered from evil as evil seems to be on the rise.

So, all this ramble is background for: at the end of the day, while the things I’ve crossed off my list satisfy my human drive and discipline to be productive, I am fully aware that the most important thing, at the top of the list, that must always be accomplished, is noticing and acknowledging the evidence of all those small interventions that can only be attributable to the God who keeps His promise to be with us. This is where true joy comes, even in the middle of trial.

Linda said...

Oh thank-you Meema. Your words are consolation and encouragement! The big stuff and the tiny invisible things...all His craftsmanship... And cause for joy. He indeed is with us. Good to know I am not alone with my list making inclinations... Listing the evidences of His presence might be an idea... Your comment here is at the top of my day's list. Thanks for stopping to chat.

Michele Morin said...

I certainly cannot improve upon peace and gratitude as evidences of a life lived in faith. And I can testify that when I'm NOT living in faith, both of those all important markers slide into the red.

Linda said...

Yes.precisely my experience,Michele.