“Lists are so hot right now.”
That’s exactly what a communication consultant told our church staff a few months ago. Though he sounded an awful lot like Mugatu from Zoolander, he was exactly right.
Facebook and Pinterest are littered with millions of blogs offering the 10 keys or the 5 steps or the 50 ways to improve your life in some way. I know this because I have written plenty of them myself. I have recently posted 10 Questions to Ask Your Spouse, 6 Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Make Wise Choices About Sex, and 10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Young Dad Self. Yep, I'm guilty.
When it comes to enhancing our family lives, we love lists! Why? Because deep down, we want a formula. A checklist. Easy answers. And in a culture that works so hard against us, we desperately want some sense of control. If things aren’t going well in our marriage or with our kids, we want to do something about it. Taking positive steps using a few ideas provided by someone who seems to have it all together makes us feel good about ourselves. Plus, the lists promise to make things better.
But what if doing the things on the list doesn’t make things better?
Whenever Jenifer and I teach together, my tendency is to quickly start moving through the content we have prepared. But as I am sharing my “list” of truths, machine-gun style, Jenifer typically has to interrupt me to remind everyone of an ever-present reality. No matter what we are teaching, the reality is always the same:
There are no formulas in the Christian life.
Sure, there are principles to live by, but there are no one-size-fits-all “tricks” that are guaranteed to produce the life or the marriage or the kids that we long for. Jenifer consistently reminds me that if there were a formula, then we wouldn’t bother going to God. And that's what God desires most from us: that we draw close to Him. A story from Jesus’ life found in Luke 10:38-42 captures this reality perfectly:
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Martha was busy working a checklist while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. There is something about Mary that we should take serious note of.
Mary was commended by Christ for investing time and energy in the ONE THING that mattered: sitting at Jesus' feet. She knew a simple reality that our lists usually overlook: that the discipline of abiding in Christ has the power to truly change us. I learned long ago (and continue to learn) that I am not smart enough to become a better husband or parent. I can read books and follow blogs and "like" all the best practices that I discover on social media, but I don't really grow unless Jesus is involved in doing a supernatural work in my heart. That act of transforming grace is the very reason that He came to earth and died in the first place.
While no list can offer me a connection to Christ, there are a few things I need to give regular attention to. (I'm going to try real hard to not give you a formula.) We must live daily in a relationship with Christ. We must "practice His presence," living our life as if He is right there with us (because He is)! We must pray without ceasing, feed on the Word, and talk often with others about what He is up to in our lives.
Most importantly, we must take time to be quiet and to listen for His voice.
God spoke regularly in the Scriptures to those willing to listen to Him. Charles Spurgeon said, "Whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives." If God spoke in the Bible, then we must believe that He speaks today. And if Jesus said (about Mary) that the most important thing we can do is to sit at His feet and listen to Him, then that must be the priority of our lives. In contrast, nothing else matters.
Do you want to be a better parent, husband, and/or wife? Then start by connecting with a personal God who is dying (literally) to be close to you. God will change your life far more through the power and presence of His Holy Spirit in your life than by reading some list that you found on Pinterest. And to quote Si Robertson, "That's the fact, Jack."
I need to practice what I preach. In lieu of a big climactic ending to this post, I'm just going to stop writing so I can get on my knees and open my ears. I'm sure God wants to tell me something...
*Check out my brand new book: The Talk(s): A Parent's Guide to Talking about Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables. It has been developed to assist parents as they help their kids navigate our hyper-sexualized culture. Whether your kids are 6 or 16, it provides practical help to help your kids to make wise choices in a messed-up world.
*We always appreciate it when you share INFO posts on social media. (I'm thinking that the fancy chalkboard art title page above would look marvelous on Pinterest.) If you want more from INFO for Families, you can subscribe on our home page, like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.