For the last couple of weeks on A Classic State of Mind, I’ve been talking about my recent visit to a 5th Grade classroom, and the posters I noticed that the teacher had used to decorated her classroom. One poster that seemed to take precedence over all the others was the poster titled: “The Questions You Should Be Answering.”
And the questions were these:
- What are you doing?
- What are you supposed to be doing?
- What’s the difference between those two things?
- What are you going to do about that reality?
Last week, I talked about that first question: What are you doing?
For so many of us, what we were doing looks nothing like what we’re doing now. Recent events and the pandemic we’re experiencing have impacted our lives in ways we hadn’t planned on. A few days ago, what I was doing was going about my everyday life, hugging my grandkids, leading worship at my church, enjoying the freedom of living in a nation and community so blessed by God.
But now what am I doing? Well, I’m sequestered at home with my wife, watching way too much news on tv, listening to reports about a bug I can’t see that’s mandating changes in my life that I don’t want. Those are some of the things I’m doing.
Taking a periodic inventory of my life is a valuable exercise. Noticing how I spend my time, what my priorities seem to be, paying specific attention to how I actually live my life can help me think about the answer to that second question:
What am I supposed to be doing?
When I was in the 5th Grade, I was reasonably bright, I suppose. And my teacher, Miss Graham would write our assignments for the week on the board — which pages of our math book we were to finish, what kind of stuff we had to have done by Friday, what words were going to be on the spelling test (I wonder if the word ‘sequestered’ would have been on one of those tests? — I understood the assignments perfectly. Miss Graham wrote all our assignments on the board so we’d be sure not to miss them. My problem wasn’t a lack of things written on the board. My problem was paying attention to what was written on the board. Somehow, I struggled in learning to talk to myself in ways that would help me navigate life in the 5th Grade. In a word, success in the 5th Grade began with paying attention to what was written on the board.
In many ways, the peace of God in the midst of our current storm will find its fulfillment in how well I pay attention to the directions He has lovingly recorded in His word for me; how attentive I am to what God has written down for me in His word — instructions for what’s going to be on life’s tests, descriptions and definitions of what’s going to be really important for me to know.
Last week’s question: What am I doing?
This week: What should I be doing that will help me in the midst of this terrible test? I need to pay attention to what’s written down; Not written on some 5th grade board; instead, something that will help me answer that second question, ‘What should I be doing?’ and what do I need to know … about the test that seems to be all around me?
A one-word answer: Read what’s on the board and Rest.
Here’s how Eugene Peterson paraphrased Romans 8:38, 39:
“The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:…None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”