If there is anything I excel at, its writing lists. Which makes me sound like I’m way more productive than I actually am. Exhibit A: All of the post-it notes are lists. To do lists. Things to remember lists. Books to read lists. People to pray for lists. Who to be like lists. Life goals lists. Artistic endeavors list. The list goes on and on…
This article from NPR explains why people like me love lists:
1) Lists bring order to chaos: If you have ever seen my room in the middle of school week, you will understand why this is necessary. My sincerest apologies, dearest Sarah!
2) Lists help us remember things: As a child, my parents would say I was in “LaLa Land” because seldom could I enter a room on an errand without getting distracted and forgetting why I was there in the first place.This phase lasted into my teen years. I can neither confirm nor deny allegations that I still slip into LaLa Land on occasion.
3) Most lists are finite: Meaning they end at some point. How comforting.
4) Lists can be meaningful: Hmm. Debatable. Current lists in my journal: Resolutions; Goals Fall 2013 (with illustrations); Professional Wardrobe Essentials (with illustrations); Personal Improvement; Book List 2013-14; Who I Want to Be; Questions to Ask Self; Things to Learn; Scripture to Memorize; Being Frugal; Fall Bible Reading Plan; etc. (I’m actually appalled at how many lists are in my summer journal alone)
5) Lists can be as long or short as necessary: In example, I have two Goals lists for the Fall. The first sums up the entire second in a few short lines: Be intentional, be fearless, Be a good steward, Love selflessly. The second fills two pages with practical application.
6) Making lists can help make you famous: Notable list makers include Thomas Jefferson, Earnest Hemingway, Martha Stewart, & Mark Twain. Does this mean I can become famous by virtue of my list-making abilities? What a thought.
8) Lists relieve stress and focus the mind: I get overwhelmed by life frequently. Especially in school. Hence I list out what needs to be done and just do the next thing.
And there is such satisfaction in striking tasks off the list.
9) Lists can force people to say revealing things: I think it’s very revealing how much I talk about doing things compared to what I actually get done in a day.
10) Lists can keep us from procrastinating: The key word is “can”. But it’s true that things are more likely to get tackled if I put them at the top of a list with a giant star and exclamation points.
I took pride in writing in my lists. Until I read a chapter called Do Everything Better in Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequiest this past weekend. Lynney made me read it. And I was horribly convicted. Shauna talks about how she was forever writing lists. Lists of tasks. Lists for self-improvement. Lists TO DO EVERYTHING BETTER. If I were being real, I’d say that that is at the heart of all of my lists. I fail at X, Y, & Z, so I write a list of what I can do to improve myself so I’ll never fail again. But then I fail again, so I feel condemned and guilty. So I write a new list. And the same vicious cycle continues.
So here’s the truth: I CANNOT DO EVERYTHING BETTER. I end up frustrated and bitter and discouraged. I feel like I’ve failed God somehow because I can’t get my act together and check items off a list. Shauna says, “The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.” My walk with Christ is not an endless list of self-improvements I have to check off to get me into Heaven. I can’t come to the Lord with perfection–nor has He ever demanded that of me. He wants me to come before Him in with my neediness, failure, and half-finished lists. I’m still going to keep writing lists because I’d go crazy if I didn’t. I’m still going to keep writing lists because I need help to stay focused. I’m still going to keep writing lists because I need to be reminded that I have important work to do and I need to do it well. But I’m not a slave to my lists. Lists are good, but God’s grace is better.