By now, you’ve likely taken hold of all of the assignments and projects that await and done your best to plot them all into some sort of plan – a calendar, a list of dates and priorities and deadlines. I listened as a group of new students expressed their sense of being overwhelmed by all that was ahead, all that needed to be done. “This is more than I expected,” said one.
I can relate. I started as a student myself this fall.
But even those of us who aren’t students have our burgeoning to-do lists. These are the things that we’d like to get accomplished or must get done because they’ve been assigned to us. The task seems to be one of prioritization and planning in an effort to try to fit it all into the time available, and maybe harder still, in order to coordinate with the schedules of others, equally frenetic – at school, at home, at work. It can be stress and anxiety inducing.
Frequently, when Christians are anxious, someone will cite Jesus’ teaching on the subject: “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them… Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. … And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. The intent is to reassure us that all will be well, in spite of our mushrooming lists of things that must get done.
What I find curious about this impulse to reassure is this: that Jesus speaks these words into an environment of privation. Jesus’ first hearers lived in a peasant farming economy. They not only had to grow enough food to feed themselves and their families, they also needed a surplus to provide seed for continued farming and trade for other necessities. On top of that, they needed a surplus to meet their ceremonial obligations within the community and to meet the requirements of rents and taxes paid to those who controlled the land they farmed. This list is in reverse order of obligation. Those in control of the land are paid first with the hope that after all of the obligations are met, there will be enough food for the peasant farmer to feed his family. Jesus’ words are an assurance of divinely provided abundance in an environment of scarcity.
It seems to me, that ours is the opposite problem. That which makes us most anxious is the reality that we have too much. Too many interests and obligations, too many assignments too much work. Too much stuff.
Ah, but we say, the lack is a lack of time. That’s where our poverty lies.
To that Jesus says something completely different. There is no teaching from Jesus where he promises that to our days will be added countless hours so that we can can get it all in. Quite the opposite. Of time, Jesus teaches that it will run out, perhaps when we least expect it.
So shall we make of this? Permit me to suggest a handful of things that I’ve learned along the way.
- As surely as Jesus taught about the ravens and the lilies, we live in a creation of abundance. There is no need for us to grab and gain for ourselves in an effort to make sure that we get our fair share, or that others don’t get more than we do. We have an abundance of opportunity and talent, of teachers and wisdom, of resources and ways to use them.
- Sometimes we do need to sit down and look at all of the things and the time that’s available and learn to manage the surplus. We learn to prioritize and focus, we learn what’s necessary and what can be let go. We learn to make a plan and work it, not attending to what might come next but focusing on the work that is for now. When we do this in an effort to lean into our vocation, to look for the ways we can be of service, we’ll find the blessings we’ve been seeking.
- We will make mistakes. Sometimes we take on too much. Sometimes we waste time. All of these times are opportunities for learning and forgiveness. Forgiveness is always on offer. It is the inexhaustible gift of God. Each day is great day for starting fresh.
If you’d like to talk about this or anything else with me or Deaconess Kristin, we invite you to book us.
Peace and joy,
Aug. 29, 2018