Last weekend, we made the four-hour trek to visit family. The country between here and there is intoxicating. Rolling hills coated with oaks and maples and pines – oh my! This stretch of land is also void of people. We pass a handful of towns (and zero Chick-fil-as) in four hours. Put the Kitchen Aid mixer on these ingredients and you have a recipe for “Night, night.”
I thought recently about how nice it will be for Tesla to get those self-driving cars ready for public consumption. It’s happening soon. When it does, one will be owned by yours truly, for the pilgrimage to visit family, if nothing else.
While most of us know not what it’s like to relinquish control of our driving to an automobile, all of us know what it’s like to relinquish control of our days to a calendar. As you move through different seasons of life (college, big boy job, marriage, family), the calendar demands more of your time and energy. Without persistent intentionality, life becomes monotonous. We know this isn’t the best way to navigate our days. We catch glimpses of a better way from time to time, awakening us to what could be. But these times are short-lived. And inevitably, we give control back to our calendar.
I’ve been on this earth thirty-two years and some change. I’m continually amazed by how naturally autopilot takes over my life and I go weeks without spending meaningful time with my family or with God.
And what about the “other stuff,” you know, the stuff you always wanted to do (and repeatedly say, if only to yourself, you’re going to do)? The non-profit you’re going to start, the book you’re going to write, the discipleship group you’re going to lead? Pssssh, please. When the calendar is in control, you’re more likely to stumble upon the Abominable Snowman on your way home from finding the Lochness Monster than to find time for the “other stuff.”
And, in an unfortunate twist of irony, the “other stuff” is usually where your passion lies. Surely I’m not the only red-blooded American who buys a min-van and struggles to find time for things that matter?
Of course, I’m not. I have Facebook. I see what you do.
That sounded creepy, I’m sorry.
The issue is intentionality. Without even realizing, life’s demands siphon away our energy, leaving very little for the stuff that matters.
And when autopilot takes over, your heart and mind know it. The Spirit gives you gentle, matter-of-fact nudges (this post, for example…maybe?), reminding there’s more to life than this.
They come when your marriage is stagnant, when you stop investing in your children, when you stop pursuing God or when you work for no greater purpose than a paycheck on Friday.
Often times, however, we don’t acknowledge the Spirit’s promptings, yet alone act on them. There’s no time or energy, says our already overstuffed calendars. Even though you were created with enough divine time and energy to accomplish God’s plans for your life, your surroundings don’t tell you so. You’re bombarded by thousands of messages, all telling you to buy this car or that new product, that is if you want to be happy or content. Your children won’t be happy unless they take guitar lessons, play soccer and baseball (at the same time) and sign up for gymnastics.
The more stuff you buy, the more money you must make, which leaves less time for things that really matter. Do you see the vicious cycle?
But there’s more.
If you choose not to act on the Spirit’s promptings, the nudges come less frequent. Well, not actually. The Spirit is always nudging us to becoming who we were meant to be. What happens is we become desensitized. We quiet the Spirit.
The Spirit always calls you forward, out of your comfort zone. Are you listening to him?
That’s the most unfortunate part of this whole deal. Many times, you and I would rather live with an addiction, get drunk on alcohol and shopping, spend hours on social media or take a few pills. Anything besides listening to the Spirit. Anything besides pursuing a purpose-filled life.
Now, you could address this problem by trimming some fat – removing events on the calendar, canceling Netflix and the like. But, in my experience, that isn’t good enough. You can re-arrange your schedule and your budget with great determination and intention, but if you don’t replace it with something better, another different but still meaningless event will take its place.
If you want to change your life, you must know your why, or “walk your why” as Susan David says in her book Emotional Agility. “Walking your why,” she says, “is the art of living by…the beliefs and behaviors that you hold dear and that give you meaning and satisfaction.”
“Walking your why” is about identifying the values that ignite you and acting on them. Identifying your values increases your willpower and grit and decreases the negative influences of things like addiction and comparison.
Identifying your values increases your willpower and grit, and decreases the negative influences of things like addiction and comparison.
People who know their “why” don’t throw away hours watching tv. Their work is far too important for such vanity. The same can be said for social media and addictions to porn or alcohol. Once you find your “why,” you no longer have any use for numbing agents, and that’s what most addictions are, after all, a quick fix for suffering. Not to oversimplify addiction. That’s not my goal here. I battled a porn addiction most of my walking days. I know they’re evil and relentlessly pervasive, attacking all facets of the mind and body. But I also remember in counseling, my shrink said I needed to find something – an unjust cause to fight, a noble passion to pursue, heck, even a hobby I love. Lo and behold, only months after, writing found me. And porn slowly began to occupy less real estate in my thoughts.
So, what matters to you? What do you want your marriage to look like? What about your children, when they leave your home, who do you want them to be? Is there something you do that awakens your heart to the world, something that makes the clock a meaningless device?
Or what about this question: If you saw yourself 20 years from right now, what would you want that person to look like? What would you want your marriage to look like? What about your relationship with God?
Living with purpose and intention is stupid hard. I get that. But I also believe you have everything you need, right now, to get started. You have enough time. You have all the resources you need. And your strength is from the Lord, so you have enough of that too.
So why not turn off autopilot and do your own steering?
Grace and peace, friends.
Frank is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside church. He is also a husband, father and Jesus-follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee.