Man, I’ve got a ton of things on my “to do” list today. We’re almost out of milk, so I need to go to the store. I’ve got that on my list. And, we’re doing some extra landscaping around our place, so I need to stop at the nursery to pick up some plants, and some plant food. Got plant food on my list. Speaking of food, I just started a new eating plan, (I don’t like the word ‘diet’) so I need to drink 8 glasses of water today. And I need to remember to write down everything I eat, so I can keep track. I’m supposed to exercise every day on that plan, too, so I need to spend 30 minutes sometime today on the exercise bike. Exercise is on my list of things I need to do, today. There are bills I need to pay. My truck needs an oil change. My checkbook needs to be reconciled. Just thinking about all the stuff on my to do list makes me weary. There are a lot of things that need to be done in my world, today.
But, you know what? There’s a huge difference between my “I need to do list” and my “I intend to do” life. Intending has a certain determined feeling about it, I think. While it is definitely true that everything on my “I need to do list” may not get done today, there is also another absolute certainty: those things I don’t intend to do will never get done. Paying attention to the difference between what I need to do and what I intend to do is a very telling thing in my life.
They were sisters, you will remember. Mary and Martha were the sisters of Lazarus, and very good personal friends with Jesus. And on the occasion of inviting Jesus to their home for refreshment and fellowship, those two now famous sisters were responsible for the food preparation. The need was obvious. If food was on the agenda, someone had to fix it. There were dishes to prepare; no doubt fires to be built for cooking, in that day before gas or electric stoves. A long list of things that needed to be done, in order for a meal to be prepared. Martha saw the list. She went after the list of things to be done with a vengeance.
But, Mary had something on her list of to dos that wasn’t on her sister’s list. She took advantage of a rare opportunity. She redeemed the time, you might say. Jesus was in the house. Jesus was speaking, and Mary’s deep longing and curiosity made her stop her busyness and sit at His feet. What would he have to say to her? What could she learn from him? What encouragement, or help or instruction might he have to give her? She wasn’t about to miss an opportunity for a focused time with Jesus.
In Ephesians Chapter 5, Paul encourages his readers to be very careful how they lived —not as unwise but as wise, “making the most of every opportunity, ….” That verse causes me to pause, and take a long look at that list of things I need to do. I can be so driven. So many good things on the list of my life. Am I making the most of every opportunity? I’d like to think I’m applying myself in that regard. I know, for example, that I need to drink 8 glasses of water today, and get the oil changed in my truck, and go to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. All those things are on my ‘need to do list.’ I could easily measure successful living for today by how many of the things that were on my need to do list were accomplished.
But, what if … What if God has something on His list for me to do today that somehow doesn’t make it to my list. What if my list looks more like Martha’s list than Mary’s? Martha’s huge oversight wasn’t what she had on her list that she couldn’t accomplish. It was what she left OFF her list, that she had no intention of doing. Jesus was in the house, for certain. Her intention was to ‘do’ for him. But Mary chose the better way. Better to intend to ‘be’ with him, listen to him, learn from him. One of the sad things in life: failure to redeem time with Him.
I learned a long time ago that there is a vast difference between my ‘need to do’ list and my ‘intend to do’ life.