I return today from 2 weeks out of the office - out of my routine, out of sight of my own bed, out of the cycle of what it typically means to be me. It was all good and was a blessed time of refreshing and enjoying my family, but now it is time for re-entry. I walk back in, looking at the inbox, and think: Well, what shall we do now?
This is actually a very good question for spiritual formation. In a speed-oriented culture, where speed equals value and quantity of accomplishment equals quality of life we are often presented with the grocery list of to-do's and when we give ourself enough space to recharge the list is quite substantial.
But what do we do?
Here are the three questions I'm using today to gauge how to tackle the to-do's. As you'll see, there are applications beyond just work in each question.
1. What must happen immediately? These are the urgent, time-sensitive, building block type of activities. These are the things that if they don't happen now will actually prohibit movement into the future. Doing preparation for a class I'm teaching this week, for example, needs to be knocked out soon because without that preparation things will not progress well for me. Quiet time this morning with Scripture and prayer falls into the same category - though I could have hopped on the day's tasks earlier this morning I knew I would have come to them without the proper posture of heart and would have suffered for it.
2. What should I eat slowly? There are always activities and tasks that can be taken apart one bite at a time. Sometimes I believe we try to eat the whole task at once when we could take a few bites, wrap it up and set it aside, then come back to it tomorrow. These are typically places where our energy and hunger for our goals outruns our time and intensity of effort. Memorizing passages of Scripture, writing large curriculum projects, rewriting a policy are all things that need to be stretched out over a few days and should also be seasoned with conversations with other people. This is a spiritual disciplines question - what must be changed (big issue) and how can I allow space for God to change me (small, indirect means)?
3. What - after my time of refreshing and rest - has become a lower priority? It astounds me how I go on a break or a vacation to get some perspective and then come back to the regular routine and pick up right where I left off. Really? Was there no insight, challenge, or conviction that came during my time of refreshing that needs to be brought to bear on the priorities I am now coming back to? If so, what was the purpose of my rest? If I already knew what I was GOING to do, then why seek time alone with God to find out what He DESIRES me to do?
I try to keep this brilliant line from Psalm 90, written by Moses (who knew a thing or two about big missions), in mind while I think on these questions and on my priorities.
"So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom." (90:12)
May God give you a heart of wisdom as you use these questions to order your days.