I love a good checklist.
A checklist for preparing and packing for Uganda.
A checklist for work activities.
A checklist for wedding planning.
A checklist for the grocery store or weekend tasks.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” rings true in a culture that demands each of us to be efficient multi-taskers. Plus as an ENTJ, my love of checklists and crossing items off my checklists is inherent to every part of my being. (Did I mention that my “J” score is really high?) The first time I went on a mission trip back in 2010, I prepared the only way I knew how, I took vigorous notes at team meetings and following the packing list completely—even adding some of my own items that I thought I needed. My checklist was my security blanket. When I moved overseas more than 2 years ago, I made checklists months in advance. I visualized and strategically planned out what items I needed in my luggage, what items could be in a shipment, and how much I needed of each item until I could order them on Amazon.
People have asked me how my trip preparation is going. Asked if I feel stressed or overwhelmed. My answer is the same, I’m good. I feel no real stress. While, some stress has snuck in, it’s been more so related to wedding planning and not Uganda preparation, like what does a capital G and Q look like in cursive. Luckily, my workload at work has slowed down to manageable level—otherwise my answer may not be the same. Although it probably would. I have been on multiple mission trips and traveled to a lot of places overseas. I have never been to Africa, so I know that it will bring its own challenges, but responding to unknowns while traveling has almost become a known to me. I feel confident in my ability to prepare, and I have full confidence that God will show up and show off because that is who He is and what He does.
But as I was packing yesterday and finishing addressing my wedding invitations, I still felt no nervousness, no real stress—except for those stupid cursive letters I don’t use regularly. However, something hit me today as I was finishing items on my checklist, God told me to stop and to pause because He had a message for me. I realized that my Uganda trip had become a “checklist item” on my wedding planning checklist. While Uganda preparation had its own checklist, it had somehow found its way on to a different checklist. My wedding list centered on things to do before and after Uganda. Uganda had also somehow made it on to my travel checklist—my first country in Africa and my international travel for 2017. My confidence in my ability to prepare for a trip and my trust in God almost acted as blinders to what God was doing and showing to me right now. I’ve been working for the last few years on relinquishing control to God, and in a lot ways I have made progress. And, that amazing trust in God to do His works is a direct bi-product of that. But, God is always pushing us to learn new things about His nature.
I had lost sight of preparing my heart and my Spirit to serve. I had lost sight of the true goal of a mission—to learn more about the things that break God’s heart and how our heart should be breaking for the same things. The people getting access to clean water were just numbers to me. Just an item on my “to do” list that in my mind read “Dig three wells. Help 100s of people. Check.” Each of those people are worth more than a number on my checklist. They are people loved by God, and I should feel completely honored to get to know them, even if I never physically meet them. I still have a few items to check off my list, but my focus is now on preparing my heart and my Spirit and not on successfully completing that checklist. Focused on each individual who God will bless through these clean water wells.
Yes, God can still move through checklists, but God loves to move in the stillness. We just have to make sure we put our pens down, find stillness, and then listen.