Prayerful To-Do Lists
Updated: May 27
Recently, I found myself being more irritable than usual with my children.
Our family was on the way to run an errand and I found myself snapping at my four year old son because he kept kicking my seat. I would ask him to stop, he would do it again. After about two or three times, I finally snapped and yelled at him to quit. Let’s just say that wasn’t the first time that morning I had reacted in that way.
Granted, he should have obeyed the first time, but his disobedience did not control my reaction and did not require an emotional outburst from me in order to discipline.
I immediately felt bad after I yelled and promptly apologized to him for yelling.
Why was I so stressed at 10 AM in the morning? I thought to myself. I began to look inwardly as we were driving to our destination and the Lord began to show me that I was feeling stressed because of my to do list.
I had a lot to do that day. We needed to pick up the china hutch, clean the house, get food ready and organize paperwork all before guests arrived later that evening for dinner. With us moving cross-country and about to have our fourth baby, I also had a laundry list of goals I wanted to accomplish in the meantime. All of that amounted to me taking out my stress on my children when they made small annoyances that would typically not bother me.
My desire to get things done and finish my to do list was causing me to step out of love with my children and find my peace in accomplishing goals.
We find a similar situation when Jesus visit’s Martha and Mary’s home in Luke’s account of the gospel.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV
If you are of the Christian faith, you may know this story very well. Martha chose to work and Mary chose the “better thing” of spending time with Jesus while he was there.
But I want to go deeper into this story.
No one ever talks about the fact that Martha really did have things to do! Not just because she had guests, but socioculturally, it was her responsibility as the older female to be hospitable to guests and maintain the home. It would have been disrespectful of her not to be preparing food for the Lord.
And Jesus doesn’t deny that.
He acknowledges that Martha is concerned about many things.
So why does Jesus say that Mary chose “what was better” by spending time with him instead of serving in the kitchen with Martha?
1) Martha was distracted by her to do list instead of soaking in time with the Lord
2) Martha was seeking Jesus’ hand instead of his heart while he visited her home
How many times do we do the same thing? Especially with new year goal-setting, many times we can focus so much on what we accomplish that we miss out on the point of our day and (ultimately) our life- encountering the presence of God. This doesn’t mean we don’t have responsibilities (because Lawd knows we do!), but it does mean that we should not create an idol out of our responsibilities and allow our to do lists to take priority over pursuing God and walking by His Spirit throughout our day.
The Lord also showed me that Mary had the wrong motives even when she did interact with Jesus in her home! In verse 40, it says “…She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”.
Let me say it louder for those in the back:
MARTHA ONLY WANTED TO SPEND TIME WITH JESUS BECAUSE SHE HOPED JESUS WOULD HELP HER FINISH HER GOALS.
Wow. Lord knows I have done that. I know I have definitely spent time with Jesus because I wanted either clarity on my goals or further progress on my goals.
Now, this includes goals he has and hasn’t given us. Yes, the Bible asks us to fervently seek the Lord for our needs and wants. But ultimately, he wants us to seek him first then all of things would be added.
33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 NLT
When we put Christ first in our days, what needs to get done will get done- it just may not look like what we thought it would.
I need to trade my to do list for Christ’s.
Maybe the dishes will have to stay in the sink today. Maybe we will have to wait until tomorrow to make that call that has been on our to do list for a week already. Maybe God will ask you to call a friend who needs encouragement instead.
Maybe our self-imposed deadlines for our goals will have to be extended a week or two.
THAT IS OKAY.
If you are allowing Christ to lead your day, you will never regret putting your to do list down for the “better thing”.
This story of Martha and Jesus (and my morning with my children) could have looked a lot differently if Martha would have surrendered her to do list for a time and decided to spend time talking with the Lord first. Or even asking him, "Lord, what do you want me to spend time on today?"
Looking back, I realized I hadn’t been in the Word the morning I snapped at my son and hadn’t even said a simple “hello” to the Lord, much less asked him what he wanted me to do that day!
What would have happened if Martha had sat next to her sister and listened and enjoyed the Lord first and then waited for Jesus to ask her to make them some food? What if I had spent some time talking with the Lord that morning before starting my day and asking him what his will for my day was instead of going rogue and deciding for myself?
I can guarantee you that I would not have learned the lesson I am sharing with you today. Thank God for his grace and loving correction- to Martha and to me!
I can’t change what happened that morning with my son or the interaction between Martha and Jesus while he was visiting her house.
What I can change is whether or not I choose the “better thing” tomorrow in my life and pursuit of my to do list.
In our goal setting and to-do list making, let’s allow the spirit of God to have a say so we can accomplish what He wants to accomplish in our lives and the lives of others.
1. Time with Jesus 2. Everything else
Originally posted January 2020 on previous blog and updated to reflect current life events.