I began writing this blog several days ago, but then the lists of the holiday season took over. Ironic, I know. There were lists of what needed to bought. Lists of what needed to be wrapped. Lists of what needed to be made. Lists and lists of this and that.
I’d consider myself to be an avid list maker. Making lists is my own personal happy place – it can even give me a semblance of control over something or a situation by making lists. I can even think of countless nights over the years where I couldn’t go to sleep because my mind was in “list mode”. Maybe it’s just a woman thing, but I think in general women come by it naturally. Whether it’s a grocery list or a list of attributes and qualities of a future spouse, women start making lists in grade school. And we don’t just see Point A to Point Z, we see every other step in the alphabet in between, along with the bullet points and foot notes.
Now don’t get me wrong, lists can be a good thing. They can keep you on budget at the grocery store, they can help you remember things to do, but lists can go to the extreme too. So when does the list making go too far?
Like I said, girls start young with the lists. The grade school game of M.A.S.H. is all about lists. But as those young girls get older, and their hearts a little more broken, those lists start getting longer.
I had a pretty long list many years ago. And I justified those lists because of a word that had been spoken over me by a prophet to not settle for anything less than God’s best. I knew what I wanted and I wanted what I knew. But as my lists grew longer, my age older, and my self-esteem lower, God began dealing with me and my incessant list making.
It all started pretty simple, like most of my conversations with God do. “So tell me what is on your list?”, I heard Him say as I began rambling off everything from height and eye color to being a man like my father. I even spent time justifying each of those bullet points in great length with God. But then God really got my attention when I heard Him say, “Do you not trust Me?”.
Never, before that moment, had I looked at MY lists as being a way of not trusting God with my life and not living by faith.
That’s when He reminded me of what His word says: “I knew YOU before I formed YOU” (Jeremiah 1:5), “I know the END from the BEGINNING” (Isaiah 46:10), “My plans for you are good, not bad” (Jeremiah 29:11), so “Seek Me and I will gladly give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4), “If you know these things, and believe by faith that they are true, then why are you limiting what I have planned for your life with your lists?”. So I tossed MY list and began seeking God on what HIS list was for me.
Tossing my “husband list” all happened several years ago. And I thought I was done with the lists after receiving that correction from the Lord, until that is, I saw I had started using them in other areas of my life again.
Over a year ago I had heard from God to go and visit another church. But I didn’t want to – I was at my lowest (self-esteem) and heaviest (weight) point in my life. I didn’t even want to go to church and see people I’ve known for years, much less go somewhere different and meet new people.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my pastors and my personal relationship with them, but I wasn’t in love with my church. I had my list though! Foolishly, I shared it with God again (apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time). “God, if I can just have XYZ and ABC, even 123 if I really want to be real about what I want, I would have the perfect church!”. Let me add a little bit of advice here: there is no such thing as a perfect church. There is, however, such a thing as the right church for you – it might be for life, or it might just be for a season, but that is why it’s important to be led by God.
Not surprisingly, God didn’t answer me this time. I can see Him now smirking and shaking His head saying “Didn’t we have this SAME EXACT conversation a few years ago?”
So I went on. Running from what God had told me to do and holding tight to my list every Sunday morning. Pretty soon, I began to see things change at church and I began to see those things on my list get checked off. I actually got really excited….there was MY list, coming to life before my eyes! We were having these amazing moves of the Holy Spirit in our services, with praise and worship leaving behind the “production” aspect of it all and going back to the roots of my youth with tried and true (and anointed) hymns, but it still didn’t feel right.
How could it not feel right though if I was getting everything I had wanted?
That’s when I felt that urgency rise up again at what God had told me to do before. I guess that’s why it didn’t feel right because I was still looking for what I wanted for myself, not for what God wanted for me.
Even after my first Sunday visiting a new church, I still was holding things up to MY list of expectations. Which is exactly what most lists boil down to – expectations. So I sought God and heard Him say, “Do you not think I can be the same God there as I am at any other church, any other service?” And I heard again what His word says: “I knew YOU before I formed YOU” (Jeremiah 1:5), “I know the END from the BEGINNING” (Isaiah 46:10), “My plans for you are good, not bad” (Jeremiah 29:11), so “Seek Me and I will gladly give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4), “If you know these things, and believe by faith that they are true, then why are you limiting what I have planned for your life with your lists?”
I know God wants the best for me and that He knows better than I ever could of what I need. So I made the decision to allow peace to be my umpire (Colossians 3:15) and I tossed my lists along with all of my expectations. I don’t want to limit what God can do and what He wants for my life.
His word says says in Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Don’t put God in a box limited by your lists and don’t narrow Him to your own expectations and ideas for anything in your life: be it a spouse, a church, even a job. You might not know what the future holds, but that’s where you have to let faith take over. As I have started being led by peace and allowing faith to take over my expectations and lists, I’ve seen God show up big time in my life with a new excitement about church. When we toss our lists and stop limiting God in our lives, and we start walking by faith, we’ll see Him show up bigger than ever before!