So here it is, The Plan of Action:
1) To stop, and be still.
Stop kicking, screaming, and fighting against God. He loves us, He desires what's best for us, and He has a reason for placing us in each circumstance, right here and right now.
Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)
I all too often fall into the trap of thinking that to be a valuable and useful human being, I must be constantly doing something, being productive, helping everyone with everything...If anything in the world needs to get done, then I must do it, or the world will simultaneously fall to pieces and despise my laziness. You get the point. This mindset is for sure stressful, and perhaps also deceptively prideful?
But it seems to be a theme throughout Scripture that that is not what God desires of us...and in fact is the opposite of what He desires of us. I could list numerous Bible verses, but I'll leave you to do your own studies :). It helps me to think in terms of my own children: They need my help, and I desire to give it to them--in fact, it brings me great joy to help them! But it's so much easier and enjoyable to help them when they are still and let me help them; when they fight and resist--albeit playfully--I still want to help them, but just simply can't.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Notice how none of God's requirements for us involve doing--but they all involve being...being people of character, regardless of what we do.
2) To train my heart to chase after God.
I recently was convicted of a muddled and confused mindset I've had...something that seems so right and good, but is deceptively selfish...which is that inspirational call to "Chase your dreams! Dream big! Reach for the stars!" etc...I'm not saying this goal is bad in and of itself. I'm just saying that God convicted me of placing my dreams before Him, and reminded me that what I really need is to chase God, and let Him fill me with the dreams He has for me, and let Him fulfill those dreams.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6:33)
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)
The trouble for me in chasing my own dreams is that it simply makes me grumpy, frustrated, and self-centered. I could write a list a mile long of all the dreams I have for myself, but no matter how hard I strive to attain them, they always remain just far enough out of reach to keep me perpetually disheartened. And really, when I examine them, those dreams are all very earthly-focused and have no lasting value, and the efforts to attain them sacrifice the things that are lastingly important--like investing myself in my children, for instance. I get grumpy because I can't do what I try so hard to do, I get frustrated because I think I should be able to do it, and I get self-centered because I think it's my right to enjoy the happiness of achieving my dreams and anyone or anything that gets in the way of that "right" suddenly owes me my entire life's happiness; it's a terrible, misplaced "martyr syndrome." I must admit, it's very embarrassing to admit this struggle, but I do because I'm encouraged with what God is teaching me.
3) To get my priorities straight!
Priorities are a struggle for me, because EVERYTHING seems to be critically important, and I get lost and overwhelmed in the great Sea of Responsibility. And then, of course, I do nothing, and am worse off than before.
A respected spiritual mentor recently spoke to me about this issue, and gave me a very practical list of priorities that is so simple to remember:
- Love God.
- Love my spouse.
- Love my children.
Another truth that has revolutionized my current life: Any needs that come my way that fall outside of these 3 priorities--it's okay to say NO! It's very hard for me to say no, and this unfortunate trait causes me often to feel overburdened. It has helped me immensely to be reminded recently about such requests: "It's not a burden, it's a decision." So, if I say no to you in the future, don't take offense--I'm just trying to keep my priorities straight!
4) Take action!
Yes, this part of the plan does seem to contradict Step 1, but it doesn't, really. This is the part where resting in God meets being obedient to do the things He asks of me, which fall directly in line with that list of priorities.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled... (1 Pet. 1:13)
My "action" list involves consistent time with God, regular dates with hubby, making sure I play with the kids each day in addition to caring for their needs, praying with Owen each night about the goals we should have for the next day, regularly getting to bed at a decent hour, and getting healthy with exercise and good nutrition.
The action plan, however, must be kept in strict check from perfectionism. Perfectionism is definitely one of the biggest vices that tempts me to feel discouraged and give up. I don't do all of this perfectly every day; honestly, it's good if I accomplish one or two of these things each day. The truth is, I'm learning, that any step forward--no matter how big or small or consistent--is still a step forward, and should be applauded! A perfect day is a good day, and a good day is one in which I tried. The only perfection God requires of us is His own.
So there it is. These are just some things I'm learning along the road...