The To-Do List Christian


Buried under To-Do'sJust as Ecclesiastes says that "of making many books there is no end," so it is with the number of modifers that can be added to the beginning of the word Christian.

And on and on.

But I want to add one I've never heard before, so maybe I'm coining it right here: The To-Do List Christian.

A To-Do List Christian is a believer in Christ who rushes around all day checking off each item as it is performed from his To-Do list. That list will vary from person to person, but it is usually complete enough to exhaust an entire day. For the To-Do List Christian, life is one vast list of demands upon his time that never gets completely met. And pity the poor person who falls behind.

"Let go and let God" is a phrase uttered by well-meaning people who deal with frazzled To-Do List Christians. This advice, however, is meaningless. The To-Do List Christian recognizes that God is not going to pay her bills, take out her trash, mow her lawn, homeschool her kids, or do the grocery shopping—at least she's not been able to locate any Scriptures that back up that contention. Ecclesiastes also mentions the many vanities of life, but for the To-Do List Christian there seems no way to avoid them. So letting go and letting God becomes an abstract concept relegated to mountain-top-sitting hermits who never have to balance a checkbook or deal with a 1040 form. In fact, God Himself takes on an abstract reality, demoted from His throne in the To-Do List Christians heart in place of a new master, Time.

To-Do List Christians are easily recognized by the perpetually stunned look on their faces. "Now what was I doing?" is their mantra, as they stand in the middle of a room wondering how they got there and where they might have been going. The fear that they have forgotten their next thing to do is almost overwhelming. "Our anniversary is in two weeks and I have no gift ready!" "Is it time to update my license plates?" "Did I remember to pay the doctor bill?" "When was the cut-off for preschool registration?" "Oh no, I missed the due date on my credit card and now I have to pay a $50 fine!" "My last quiet time? I can't remember when that was…but I do know I have a small group meeting, an accountability group meeting, and the Wednesday night church class—or was that canceled this week?"

To-Do List Christians are tired, run-down people. Some cannot say no to requests made of them, especially those made by their church, while others have learned the fine art of saying no and yet the to-do list does not subside even one item. Joy seems lost, buried under a pile of clamoring activities and must-do items of daily living. Drudgery becomes the norm rather than a life made more abundant. The spiritual world seems very far away, indeed.

This blog posting today is a confession of sorts for me, because I fear that I have become a To-Do List Christian. My list of things to do is so large that I ran it out on an Excel spreadsheet and it came to nearly two hundred items. Every day I feel like it grows faster than I can complete items on it. Yes, some are long-term to-do's, but many require immediate responses. Stack enough of those on top of each other and the load becomes almost unbearable.

I don't like feeling like that, but I have no idea how to get out from under the weight of things to do. I don't believe that God created us to live like this, rushing from one thing to another in a mad frenzy of checking things off a list. Yet as much as I have pondered this, I don't have a good solution. I believe that living in a more intentional Christian community can free us up somewhat, but the "world system" we have erected for ourselves in 21st century America is crushing the life—especially the spiritual life—out of most of us. Perpetually stunned people have a hard time praying, reading the Scriptures, and focusing on anything besides the conviction that a month-long vacation is needed—so long as all the bills somehow get paid during that time. (Even vacation time comes at a price.)

I have a full load of things to do in just the next two days. How much do you have to do? Are you becoming a To-Do List Christian? What can we do about it?

Please comment. I hope that many of us can recognize that we have added the modifier "To-Do List" in front of our main title of "Christian." I hate that. Do you?

6 thoughts on “The To-Do List Christian

  1. Just found your site through a comment you made on Contemplatives on “Emergent No.” Thank you, it was like a breath of fresh air. Sigh, so much to be said for the amazing saints of old, so little respect.

    I enjoyed this post (Will take me a while to get through your other ones). And though I’m sure I won’t agree with everything (I never do), I like your take on life with Jesus. Plus, I too feel the temptation of To-Do listing my life.

    I think the remedy for the “To-do list” Christian is a revolutionary obedience to the call of simplicity. Live simply, sell what we have, give to the poor, and then lets get back to some of the spiritual disciplines taught by the mountain-top-sitting hermits.

    I think many of us excuse the things we heap on our plate because they are “good” and “necessary.” Says who?

    Trying to reconcile the To-Do list and life with Jesus is like trying to stuff a camel through the eye of a needle.

  2. Kevin

    Hmmm. I am living almost an antithetical life to the one you describe. Praise the Lord that we can still be brothers!

    I am an IT geek in Columbus, and recently became a single parent. My wife was a back to nature Christian who decided the drop the ‘Christian’ part. I am struggling now to find the time for much back to nature activity.

    This makes me even more of a “To-Do” person than ever before. I am so much busier than I have ever been in my life, I cannot imagine how I would begin to keep up without actively to-do’ing. I keep a pretty long list of big and small things that all NEED to be done, some of them some time ago.

    So, let’s assume that I am right. I would fail without lists to keep things rolling. Does that make me a ToDo Christian? It definitely makes me a ToDo person, but I see a difference there. My children enjoy a good bit of my time (my ex’s too, we are both fully engaged) but they do so as pressures against the list, not as parts of the list. I feel the same way about God. He is a pressure against the list, Someone enjoying and deserving my time. I cannot give any of them the time we all wish I could, but none of them have fallen into the grips of the list.

  3. Sarah

    When you are empty you need to be filled up. We don’t need to feed God, make Him stronger, wake Him up on time, make Him dinner… He just wants us. He wants you not only when you are on your knees, but He is very practical… He wants to help you make this dinner, pay the bills etc. Somewhere, somehow He looks for a way, a time to fill you up with love, because without it the to-do list person will eventually die. When we take our face, time away from God, He is still there… We are still alive, even though He could turn away, and without Him there is nothing, no life, just death. You see we must accept that God is God of not only good and perfect people, but He wants to be God of all people, even you and me. He doesn’t need you or me to live, and yet He wants us. It’s as who need His breath to stay alive. I think that this is a true love, a constant love, unchangable love… It’s when you don’t need someone but you want and you wil do all what it takes to be with them. It’s an amazing and even weird kind of love.

  4. In my life last week, every duty seemed stale and dreary. Staleness should be every child of God’s first clue something is wrong in their world. Chambers says, “Being born again from above is a perennial, perpetual and eternal beginning; a freshness all the time in thinking and in talking and in living, the continual surprise of the life of God. Staleness is an indication of something out of joint with God”

    But when you you have been renewed at the throne of God, all the world seems green and golden. Chores are not a heavy yoke, but easy and light, because the Son of Man has crafted the list, made enough margin, and shares the burden to do.

  5. richard abernathy

    J have a “to do list” that I think is very important
    1. Love God completely.
    2. Love my neighbor (and my enemy).
    3. Practice the great commission.
    4. Seek God’s will through prayer and study of His word.
    5. Have a relation with God in which He is always my Lord. (Abide in Him) Fruit results.
    My failure in my “to do list” is far greater and more important than my failures in my “don’t do list”.

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