I like lists. Like a lot.
Perhaps that’s a weird statement, especially coming out of the mouth of very Type-B personality, but allow me to elaborate. I like crossing things off of massive to-do lists. I color coordinate them, and if you show even an ounce of interest in my day planner, get ready to listen to the explanation of all my pen colors and highlighters for the next five minutes. I’ll spare you the gory details. Unless of course you want to hear them.
And yes, I still have a day planner. I refuse to go paperless. The 1990s are alive and well in my heart. I welcome an argument as to why your palm pilot is better. Do people even use palm pilots anymore? I don’t know, I just don’t know. Though I do really enjoy the idea of a tiny person living on your actual palm, piloting your hand around all day. You could be having a conversation with someone and all of a sudden your hand would just start moving on its own volition doing stuff like loading the dishwasher. Imagine the possibilities…
Sometimes I even write meaningless tasks on my lists so I can cross them off later.
Look into ADD meds
Stop Talking about Palm Pilots
Shower (sometimes I have to be reminded)
Make a List
Continue to Blink
Crossing projects off my list energizes me. I whip out my blue highlighter and ink up that to-do list item with vengeance and fury. “Ha, HA! You thought you could beat me, didn’t you work report? DIDN’T YOU?! Well admit it, I owned you. Prepare to meet your highlighter ma(r)ker!” And then I blot that sucker’s life out like a bad Dexter impersonation, ready to move on to my next agenda-item victim.
I told you I was passionate about my to-do lists.
And as someone so impassioned by the promise and expectation of productivity and goal-meeting, there are often casualties along the way. More than just the dried-up highlighters and ruthless scribbles of a job well done.
Sometimes I sacrifice people and relationships on the altar of my projects.
I work at a church in Southern California as the Connections & Assimilation Director. Meaning, my soul purpose for employment is meeting people, making them feel welcome, and getting them plugged in to the life of the church. Sure, there’s other logistical clerical work to it, but that’s the heart. Without that element everything else falls apart.
It may seem ridiculous, but on Sunday mornings, the days that should be akin to my Meeting-People Super Bowl, I often find myself dragging furniture, moving chairs, and setting up our mobile campus. I am often so consumed with my pre-service task list that I completely forget to talk to people. I’m not kidding you, I straight up forget. Unless it’s to tell someone to move a table or ask who hid the mop.
It’s something I’ve been trying to work on, something my coworkers have even told me I need to work on, but it wasn’t until talking to my mom a couple weeks ago that I truly began to understand why it was so important.
When I was little, my family moved to a different city and consequently moved churches. In an attempt to make our new church feel like the family we left at our old one, my mom began attending a women’s Bible study. People were nice and exchanged pleasantries, but she quietly explained to me that she was never brought in to any real conversations. Mourning all the changes, my mom admitted that she cried through the opening prayer and the beginning of the study while no one even noticed. No one bothered to connect, to see that all might not be well.
It often takes more than a quick friendly hello to make people feel welcomed.
Contrast this story with one I heard from another acquaintance. She was in a bookstore when she overheard a man talking on the phone about how many different versions of the Bible there were and how frustrating it was to figure out which one to buy. Smiling at his seemingly-overdramatic antics, she struck up a conversation and offered to help.
She discovered that he was living at a rescue mission, having been admitted for substance abuse problems. He had just become a Christian and was desperately trying to turn his life around. While the man was still browsing, the woman purchased him a Bible, paid to get it engraved, and discreetly left the store.
When the man went up front to pay he was told what the woman had done. He was astounded. And as he held his very own Bible in his hands, complete with his name on it, he felt rooted. It was a turn-around point for him.
Several years later, the man is now employed by the rescue mission and unashamedly tells his story and about the stranger who bought him the Bible that fateful day. He attributes his life’s great turnaround to the woman in the bookstore.
You never know what kind of impact your hello could have. What picking someone up from the airport might mean. Or paying for a coffee for the person in line behind you.
There’s people on God’s schedule that may not be on ours. And if I am consumed with my project, rather than the people I am meant to encounter, I’ll miss them. I’ll miss my opportunity to impact and be impacted… all because I am too busy staring down at a day-planner rather than into peoples’ eyes.
We were made first and foremost to be relational, above achieving productivity, above meeting our own personal goals. To be relational first with God, and then with others. I know we all still have jobs and tasks we must complete. But at the heart of life, at the heart of Jesus, there is first relationship.
Jesus allowed himself to be interrupted all the time. By crowds, children, lepers, grieving parents… and he spent time with them. Remember what is important. Remember what is eternal. My to-do list is not.