Set free from the to-do list

I often start the summer with a to-do list on my mind. The list includes projects I’d like to get done, places I’d like to go, people I’d like to see. Summer offers the potential of better weather, a little more free time and the chance to get things done that get put to the side during the school year. But often the end of August comes sooner than expected. The list never gets completed. I don’t expect it to be different this summer.

The to-do list is a harsh taskmaster. No matter how hard we try, the list never tells us we’ve done enough. It makes us feel guilty. The list tells us we can’t afford to rest and relax. The list keeps reminding us of all the work that still needs to be done.

The list doesn’t include some things that are nourishing to the soul but not valued by the taskmaster of the list. Things that should be on our summer to-do list but often aren’t include: playing with a child, visiting with a friend, enjoying a sunset, praising the Creator while watching ocean waves roll in, marveling at a majestic mountain, listening to some relaxing music and reading a good book.

After a time of serving people the disciples returned to Jesus and “reported to him all they had done and taught.” They hadn’t gotten it all done, though. So many needy people were coming “that they did not even have a chance to eat.” No matter how much they got done, their to-do list kept growing. Then Jesus did something surprising. “He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mark 6:30-32).

Jesus told the to-do list, “You’re not in charge any more. You don’t say what has to be done and what can’t be done.” Jesus is the Lord in charge. His word to His children is much different than the never-satisfied demands of the to-do-list taskmaster. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The to-do list is like the law of judgment. We can never keep it perfectly. It humbles us and shows us our sin. We fail to do all it demands. But Jesus fulfilled the demands of the law. He completed every part of the to-do list that is necessary for our salvation. We are set free from the to-do list, “free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do … God did by sending his own Son … in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us” (Romans 8:2-4).

It is good to be active in service this summer, but do so not because the to-do list says you have to. Actively serve the Lord and others because Jesus loves you and has set you free to serve in a whole new way.

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