As a teenager, I loved taking quizzes and working from a checklist. No, not the Math/English/Science variety. The good kind. You know, the ones designed to provide insight into your very soul.
Pouring over the latest teen magazines, I could feel my heart-rate increase as my friends and I would devour every page, knowing there would be at least one feature entitled, What Kind of Man Will You Marry? How Cool Will You Be in High School? Are You a Good Kisser? What is Your Body Type? What Type of Boyfriend is Best for You?
The kind that asked 10 simple questions, directed you to tally up your A’s, B’s, and C’s, then revealed—with incredible insight, I might add—everything a young seeking heart needed to know.
It was from this source of wisdom that I knew I would marry a dark-haired prince, have 6.7 children (whatever that means), and maintain a svelte size 6 for the duration of my life.
I did, indeed, marry a dark-haired prince. The others? Not so much.
As we grow older and wiser, and leave Teen Beat and Seventeen behind, it’s easy to continue having a checklist mentality. And if we’re talking about our schedules or a grocery list, then it’s all good. The problem comes when our quiz/checklist goes something like this:
I attend church at least three times a month…check
I had my devotional time this morning…check
I’ve memorized scripture this week…um, not quite
I gave an offering last Sunday…um, I will this week
I’ve cooked a meal for someone in need…groan…
I have prayed for the needs of others…yes!
I have visited someone in the nursing home or hospital…check
I have not gossiped this week…sigh.
8 Checks – Wow, I’m amazing…running on all cylinders and impressing God big-time. (Well, maybe next week…)
5-7 Checks – I’m getting there… No one’s perfect anyway (Said in a really whiny voice)
0-4 Checks – (This is my score again?!) God must be furious with me. I need to work harder to get back into His favor!
So, what’s the big deal? We’re busy caring for our families, working long hours, and staying active in church. And we’re placing as much energy as possible into pursuing that vague, elusive thing called happiness…because, well, that’s what we’re supposed to be about, right?
Sanctified, justified, gloriously happy Christians.
But sometimes, we cling to unhealthy habits at the expense of our inner spirit—that mysterious place that our Creator wants to nurture and grow in His likeness. Keeping a checklist for the purpose of pleasing God can be a suffocating habit. It’s also a huge soul-shrinker and can lead to lack of peace and frustration with what we’re told the Christ-like life should be.
When we live by a checklist (or by tallying a quiz), we reduce our lives to a works-based faith. We are trying to earn God’s pleasure…and it can be exhausting!
In the book, Restless, Jennie Allen writes, “Because of grace, we have nothing to prove.”
In Ephesians 1:4-6 (The Message), we read, Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
We are bought with His blood on the cross. We belong to Him!
It’s all about that GRACE, ‘bout that Grace, no devil… (Sorry, that wasn’t original, saw it somewhere and it made me laugh)
GRACE–Undeserved, unmerited favor.
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:39 (The Message)
When we grab hold of this—that nothing can separate us from the love of God—something amazing happens…
We experience a freedom like no other! We are then compelled to do some of the things on our lists because we love Him. Instead of serving to earn brownie points or to retain favor, we serve as an act of worship—to show our love and adoration to the One who made us. Service becomes relational—we’re on mission with God.
I want my children to call or visit me because they love me—not because they think I’m keeping a tally on them. And when they’re little, don’t we want those sweet chubby arms around us from the simple joy of baby-love, not from a sense of duty?
Would God want anything less?
So, let’s put the quizzes and checklists away (I’m pretty sure my dark-haired prince is from the Lord, anyway).
After all, it’s all about that GRACE. 🙂