byFaith | 5.6.15
By Alan Dowd
My mom was—and is still is—a master of
to-do lists. “The first thing we need to do is make a list of what to do,” she
would say, without any sense of irony. It was sometimes frustrating, to be
honest, but it always served a purpose. Years later, I came to realize that it
makes a lot of sense to take stock of what needs to be done before trying to do
it. Because of what my mom taught me, I always have a pad of paper next to my laptop
to keep track of what I have to do, and every week begins and ends with me
adding to or crossing through my to-do list.
When you think about it, God is a list-maker and a planner. It may have
been effortless for the Creator to create, but that doesn’t mean it was
improvised. Look at Genesis 1. He created light, and then the waters, and then
land, and then vegetation, and then birds and fish and animals. This is the
handiwork of a designer: Vegetation would need sunlight and water to live, and
animals would need vegetation to live. The sequence of things was really
important. Genesis 2 even suggests that God was holding back the plants from
blooming and blossoming because “there was no man to work the ground.” In
short, this is a God of forethought and planning—and to-do lists.
He goes into minute
detail about plans for the ark and the tabernacle.He promises Jeremiah—and
us—that He has big plans for His children. “I know the plans I have for you…plans
to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
The wisdom books tell us more about our Lord’s lists. The psalmistreminds us that “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his
heart through all generations.” Importantly, he says this in the same breath as
he describes how “the Lord gathers the waters of the sea,” how “He spoke, and
it came to be,” how He “forms the hearts of all” and “considers everything
The Lord Himself asks Job,
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? ...Who marked off its
stretched a measuring line across
it? ...Have you ever given
orders to the morning,or shown the dawn its place? …Do you know the laws of
the heavens?” In other words, God didn’t just snap His fingers and create
creation. He first considered and conceived all the rules and laws by which creation
could come into existence.
Through it all, God was following a well-designed plan. And He still is. Luke calls it a “deliberate plan.”Paulpromises that the Lord is working things out according to His plan. And the
author of Hebrews says God is planning “something better for us.”
So, my list-crazy mom is in very good company.
With Mother’s Day and the May
graduation season upon us, I can’t help but think of the to-do lists my mom and I made as I prepared to go off to college: what to pack, what to shop for, where to be and when
to be there, what to do before that all-important first semester began—and when
to do it. My college to-do list helped me cut through the clutter and chaos. It
helped me prepare for all the changes. And it helped me focus on what mattered
most. To-do lists are good at that. But God’s propensity to plan and prepare
for all things reminds us that to-do lists don’t have to be limited to the nuts
and bolts of everyday life. They can also help us focus on the things in life
that really matter—eternal and transcendent things.
Whether graduating from high school
into college, or from college into a career, there are some bedrock lessons to
apply to the next phase of life—lessons that are too often overlooked amid the
hustle and bustle of these post-graduation transitions, lessons that moms like
mine have passed down for generations. As
your kids complete another year in school—especially if they are transitioning
from high school to college or from college into the real world—perhaps the
following to-do list will help them navigate what lies ahead.
Stay true to yourself. There is only one of you. God calls you a priceless
work of art, a poem from the heavens. So don’t try to become something else. It
will always be less than what He has planned.
Every class or corner you cut, every course you give less than your best, will
have an impact somewhere down the road.
There is no other time in life that allows you, even encourages you, to focus
on yourself quite like high school and college.
The Holy Spirit will guide you, but He can’t help if you don’t listen, and He
probably won’t intercede if you don’t ask. So pray in all things.
Make new friends. And choose wisely—they’ll have a big impact on you. Proverbs 13
reminds us that we “become
wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to
Share the Good News. God wants you to have a big impact on your friends. As Paul puts it,
you are Christ’s ambassador. Don’t squander this special status. And don’t
forget that your words and deeds reflect on your Savior.
Find a place to worship. Remember the example of Jesus and the apostles. Jesus
is the Word Made Flesh, our Great High Priest, the Living Temple, and yet the
Bible tells us He and His followers faithfully celebrated the Sabbath by
worshipping. Jesus will challenge you more than any class or any job. But He
can’t do it if you’re not within earshot of His word.
Take your Bible—and read it. There’s no finer piece of literature, work of
poetry, reference book, guidebook, how-to book or road map for life.
It’s more than the town you came from and more than your address. It’s the
place where people know you best and love you most.
Write your grandparents. If you’re blessed to still have grandparents, write
them an old-fashioned letter. They may never tell you, but a note from you will
make their day, their week, their year.
Don’t be afraid to struggle with God. He already knows your questions and worries. He just
wants to hear them from your heart. He loves it when His children come to the
end of themselves and admit,
“Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!”
Guard your heart. It is the wellspringof your life and the dwelling place of your Savior.
Think about the future. Today’s decisions and indecision, actions and
inaction, will affect your tomorrow.Proverbs reminds us that “those who plan what is good find love and
faithfulness.” So imitate our Lord and plan to do what is good as this new
chapter of life begins—and then go do it.
Dowd writes a monthly column exploring the crossroads of faith and public policy for byFaith.