Our Lists Can't Satisfy
by Amy Nichols
October 12, 2016
Galatians 3:1-14: O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
I live my life in lists. I like lists — they’re neat and tidy, and I can cross things off of them and feel accomplished at the end, like I have officially completed everything I was supposed to do today, and now I can rest.
These lists show up everywhere — on sticky notes, in my work notebook, on printed lists with checkboxes that are oh-so-satisfying to put that little ‘x’ inside. At work every day, I’ve got a list of things I made for myself to do that day. When I reach 4:45pm and see that everything is marked off my list, I feel like I’ve done my duty, earned my paycheck. At home, the lists abound. I use a grocery list every Saturday. If it’s on the list, I got it, and if it’s not on the list, it can probably wait 'til next time.
I make a list for myself on the weekend of what needs to be cleaned, and sometimes I break the list down even further, so instead of “laundry,” I’ll list “towels, whites, dressy colors, and casual colors,” just so I can check off extra items on the list! I’ve even got lists for all the lists I need to make this week! And on the miracle days when I have done everything on my list, I feel like I’ve been a good enough mom and wife. I’ve taken care of everything I was supposed to and served my family well. For just a second, it makes me feel a little bit worthy of the charmed life I live.
I also have a mental daily list that includes things like work out, quiet time, cook breakfast, fix dinner, read with Lilah, etc. I actually used to have a physical chart with a line on it for these tasks I felt like I should make habits of every day. And there were 31 columns so I could use it each month to measure my progress in little x’s. And I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with that! Discipline is a good thing, and using tools to help you cultivate discipline and self control in your life is great. But here’s my problem (and confession): I let my heart seek its satisfaction and identity in the lists.
Know why that’s a problem? An obvious issue here is that many times — ok, most times, the lists don’t get completed; the boxes are left unchecked; and I am found wanting in my own self-designed metrics for success. But the heart issue (and the sin issue) here is that no matter how many x’s I have on my paper, my lists come up empty--there is no soul satisfaction there.
In my obsession to get it all done, I prove that I have forgotten my own holy identity as an adopted child of God. I have forgotten the burden’s been lifted from my shoulders and placed on Christ’s, carried to Calvary, and left there, conquered forever. Am I so foolish? Do I think having eternity sealed for me and my soul declared worthy by the God of all there is, purchased by His blood--is this not enough? Do I think the lists perfect me still?
The only list I need wrap my identity around is the one that’s been marked “finished” on my behalf. There is rest there.
It is for freedom that He has set us free — let us go and live in liberty, rejoicing and making much of Him as we do!