Friday, August 29, 2008

"Be" Like Jesus? How Do I "Do" That?

Ever feel overwhelmed by the goals you're supposed to attain? By the projects you're supposed to finish? By the length of your to-do list, which seems to only be getting longer?

Today, I'm overwhelmed. I started classes on Wednesday and just received my three syllabi for the semester. Hubby and I were on vacation last week, so on this frightful day I unpacked, began to tackle the laundry (which was already overflowing before our vacation), and updated my to-do list (bills need paying, refrigerator is empty, my car needs a smog check immediately). Meanwhile, I'm stressfully thinking about the freelance project I should be working on, which is due next week, as well as my homework for school, which I should be doing, too.
Once I figure out a plan for all this work, I know it won't be impossible. Everything will get done, and it doesn't all need to happen today. But stress still hovers over me, with that gnawing desire to just be finished. And things, as you well know, are never finished.

In my spiritual life, I perpetually feel unfinished. And I resent it. Every time God brings about some big change in me, I want to relax and say, "OK, God, we're done, right?" I wish I could be completely transformed by God, and just done with it. I dread the emotional work and the pain of change that goes along with transformation.

I even try to make to-do lists as a Christian. I look at Jesus and, seeing my benchmark, I think, That's how I'm supposed to live. How can I reach that goal? What do I have to do to get to that point?

Why do I feel compelled to be completely sanctified in this life? It simply isn't possible--so why do I categorize this as yet another goal to be attained, as if there's some spiritual to-do list I can complete?

My pastor says I get wrapped up in "do-ing." This is true: I want to do stuff to grow spiritually, like serving, reading the "right" books, evangelizing, whatever. Just give me the tasks and I'll do them. Instead, my pastor says, I should just "be." This frustrates me to no end. What does it mean to "be"? And, I wonder, what do I have to do in order to be?

I suppose we desire to do stuff because that's what we see in our lives: Everything from our daily tasks to our long-term goals and dreams are measured by how much progress we've made. How many to-do's did we cross off our lists today? Did we do enough work to get a promotion, a good grade, or kudos? Am I a good wife because I got the laundry done and put a hot meal on the table? Am I a good daughter because I called my mom and made plans to get together? Am I a good worshipper because I listened to a sermon on tape, read three chapters of my Bible, and prayed for a sick friend?

As much as I hate endless work, I've realized I'd rather have a to-do list because at least I'm clear on what needs to be done. But to just be? How am I supposed to measure how effective I am at be-ing?

If I could buy into this idea of be-ing, it would be such a relief. Do-ing is an exhausting, unending cycle. After my classes are completed this semester, there will be more classes. After my freelance assignment is turned in, there will be more things to write. And, of course, the laundry will get dirty again.

Like do-ing, be-ing is ongoing, but there seems to be rest in it. It's present tense, in the moment, and without expectation. If I could learn to give God this present moment, to surrender continuously, I wouldn't have to worry about what has been or what will be.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be content with your present situation, your character, and your life? Wouldn't it be wonderful to say, "Here am I, God. I'm tired of doing. I'm just going to be who you made me to be, and I'll let you be God and change me as you see fit."

I'm not there yet. But I want to be, without trying to figure out how to do this. Right now, a "yoke that's easy" and a "burden that's light" seem like contradictions. My to-do lists aren't easy or light. I hope I can let God show me what he means.

To ponder:
1) Do you measure your relationships with friends and family on how much you do for each other?

2) What do you think it means to "be" a good friend?

In your spiritual life, do you feel like you're mostly do-ing, or mostly be-ing?

What do you think it means to "just be" with God?


Brooke said...

As I read this post, I thought about "being" in love. When we are in love all of the "doing" of life becomes something going on in the background. Perhaps that is why people like to be in love. It is kind of effortless. It makes doing things quite happy and easy. Okay so you don't like the touchy feely analogy? Try this one.

As a parent there have been many times I have had to "do" things that are unpleasant, like miss sleep with sick kids and clean-up potty training messes in the middle of the night. However, because I love my kids, "doing" stuff for them is not even a thought. It is natural because "I am" a loving parent.

We can't avoid doing. There is a lot of doing involved in life. The question is about how we approach the doing. Who we are has everything to do with the motivations behind what we choose to do and how we do it. If we take time to examine our doings it tells us a lot about our own process of "becoming."

LaTonya said...

Hmm. What if you got an extension on your freelance project? Would that help, even if it just gave you the weekend? Hmm . . .

~grace sangalang said...

oh! i totally understand the struggle of learning how to "be" a society of "doing" and finding worth in things i do, i still don't know what "being" means. ucla's slogan is "Nobody at UCLA keeps score on who you are. They just want to see what you do." I think this statement is such a reflection of our society, and who I have become. It's quite sad, actually.