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Goodbye simplicity

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So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
Ephesians 5: 15-17

In the darkness, I grope for my cell phone. It’s 5:50 a.m. and the far too cheerful ditty I set as an alarm pulls me into that clumsy place between dreams and reality. I press snooze and go back to sleep. Five minutes later, the ditty plays again, all too proud to announce another weekday morning. Groaning, I resurrect my limp body and stagger robotically to the shower. In the bathroom, through the fog of lingering sleep, I laugh at the wild girl in the mirror. I’m still too tired to remember what day of the week it is, but the squinting eyes and wild hair that meet me confirm that a new day has begun.

Do I have Bible study tonight? What do I need to take with me this morning? What should I wear today? Questions pour over me, mingling with water from the showerhead as I slowly find my place in this new day. It sounds intentional and reflective—making sure that I’m prepared for the daily routine—but it’s really very subconscious. Routine is the great initiator. Routine gets me out of bed each morning, gets me to work, helps me stay in shape, and even helps me remember to pray and read my Bible. But the reason I can think about it in the shower—before I’m really awake—is because routine is also thoughtless, mechanical. If routine is the great initiator, it must be acknowledged that it initiates nothing original. Routine can drive a day, but only down a course that has been navigated before. We call the roadmaps for such courses schedules, but the problem with the schedules I make is that they rarely leave room for pit stops or detours.

With the right routine and a full enough schedule, I can cruise through the day on autopilot and finish the course by sundown. It starts in the shower, as I think about what I will do that day. Following my routine, I move from one activity to another. Checking things off on my mental to-do list, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Because I believe that God has given me my job and the other responsibilities that fill my day, it is easy to feel that I am living as one who is wise—using my time to accomplish important things. Yet living in a routine, I must be careful, for it is here that it is easy to act thoughtlessly. If I am too focused on my schedule, or the course I usually drive, I may not truly understand what the Lord would have me to do for that day.

Ephesians tells us not to act thoughtlessly, but to understand what God wants. Understanding takes time. It takes contemplation. It means stopping to seek God’s will. Action is important, but it seems that God is calling us to know not just what we will do, but how we will live. He is calling us to engage with our day, to put thought into our actions, and to be ready to stop the routine and interrupt the schedule in order to take advantage of an opportunity he may provide. It’s old news to many of us, but in our busy American culture it seems that it’s news that has been discarded. Our world moves fast, and slowing down is counter-cultural. Stopping to chat with my neighbors or silently fixing someone else’s mistake at work is unexpected. But, when such opportunities arise, God wants us to be ready to approach them with wisdom, not with thoughtless routine that focuses only on our schedules.

In Proverbs we are told, “Leave you simple ways behind, and begin to live; learn to use good judgment” (Proverbs 9:6 NLT). Routines and schedules are simple. And, in and of themselves, they are not bad. It is when they control us that they can hinder us from making the most of every opportunity. Good judgment recognizes this and is not afraid to live outside the simple—to embrace the counter-cultural call of Christ.

I think that this thoughtful approach means seizing each day from the beginning and giving it to God. I think what God wants is for us to lay our schedules at his feet, recognizing that he may have something different—asking that he would help us be open to whatever that may be. I think that not acting thoughtlessly means asking that God help us look at our lives through his perspective—something that we cannot do if we are stuck in the middle of our own routines.

Proverbs hints at the fact that this is not easy. It means intentionally saying good bye to all that is simple and grabbing onto a bigger vision for life—the vision of God. My goal is to focus each day around God from the very beginning, to remember when the alarm goes off that it is far more than another weekday morning. It is another chance to do what I was made to do—to live like one who is wise. To do this, I must seek God from the start—I must ask him for good judgment, and pray that he will guide me away from thoughtless, simple action. It may begin in the shower, before I even know what day it is. It may take time for me to let go of my ideas for the day. But, in the end, when I abandon routine and learn to take the detours that God brings my way, I think I will find that I’ve learned to live.

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Written by liferenewed

July 27, 2008 at 5:38 am

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