“The hopes of the godly result in happiness, but the expectations of the wicked are all in vain.” (Proverbs 10:28, NLT)
When I read this verse today, two questions immediately sprang to mind.
1) First, am I godly?
2) Secondly, what are my hopes—in other words, my goals? I have the sense that they have changed in just a few short years—and I’m not sure I’ve really defined them.
You should understand something about me. A few years ago, after my older brother recommended the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I got a little obsessive about my life’s goals. Looking for ways to improve my abysmally ineffective first year of teaching, I lapped up those seven habits, even making my second-year students endure a three-week unit on said habits.
During my third year of teaching, on my own I completed some exercises found in the back of my new 2011 Covey planner. These entailed writing out my roles and goals, my values, and my bucket list. You can find that list here.
On paper, my goals look good, but in retrospect, I think I’ve done badly—at least on the relationship points.
A Few of My Failures
“Conscious steps toward building or maintaining my relationships.” Maybe a few. We did start a weekly small group Bible study after I left teaching. But it took my new Bible-study-buddy, Tasha, to get me out of my comfort zone for social outings–sporadic spa days.
“Avoid overcommitting myself in areas that do not desperately require my attention.” My hubby’s feedback heavily suggests otherwise. In fact, just now I am kicking myself for getting too involved at church, yet again, this year.
“Don’t forget to make and take time for friends.” I’ve forgotten often. I have plenty of relationships that have fallen by the wayside, a topic for another time, but the biggest relationship I’ve neglected by far is my marriage.
This is hard to admit. Suddenly I see that all these years I’ve tried to blame him for our shortcomings as a couple. I’ve deluded myself into thinking I was the one doing most of the giving…he most of the taking…but now I’ll put the question to myself: What have I really done for our marriage?
As I think back on the eight years we’ve been in this union, all I see is a panorama of achievements I’ve chased—degrees and jobs and dreams—that were all selfishly motivated. To this day, I can list lots of things I’ve done for myself, but it’s hard to say what I’ve done for our marriage.
The Undefined Emptiness
Lately, with plenty of quiet time on my hands, I can’t help but reexamine my life, and what keeps coming up is that I have an emptiness inside. None of the degrees or achievements have filled it. God and my husband have done much to soothe it, but after much time on my knees, I feel it will not be enough to keep to myself—just me and my God and my husband and my writing.
There is something else I’m supposed to be doing. I know I need to be less selfish in my marriage, yes–and I’m working on it–but to deal with this maddening quiet when he’s not here—when it’s just me and my writing and my restlessness—is there something else?
So this morning I prayed: “Lord, please: I’d like a breakthrough of some sort. A pregnancy. A job. An acceptance letter [from my MFA program]. Some other place to belong, some other place to get my mind off myself.”
And you know what I heard?
“Lindsey, you are troubled about many things. But only one thing is needful.”
In his sequel to The Seven Habits, entitled First Things First, Stephen Covey uses an illustration involving a ladder and a wall, saying it will do no good to climb a ladder if it is leaning against the wrong wall. He’s right, of course, but only because it was God’s principle, first.
So says God and Stephen Covey: Lindsey, you better focus on question 1) Am I godly? Before you (re)tackle 2) What are my goals (and Where should I go, What should I do)? Because without getting number 1 right, number 2 is a moot point.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things [whatever they are] shall be added unto you.”
Well, okay then. Back to my knees it is.
Godliness is a challenging thing, but I’d advise that you not beat yourself up over not having it. As my pastor once said, “Wisdom is a path and not a door.” In other words, wisdom (which as we know comes from the fear of the Lord) is something that you always pursue and never reach; if you think you have it, you’re a fool and only fooling yourself.
Don’t fall into the trap of legalism, self-flagellating because you’re not “godly” enough. The Spirit sanctifies us daily to make us more godly. Our pursuit of Him is only the acknowledgement that he’s working it out for our good.
Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment, Joel. Yes, as a Christian, I can sometimes get sucked into legalistic tendencies…even though I read in my Bible that what God wants is a “circumcised heart”; he doesn’t want my best efforts, but my heart. To depend on Someone Else rather than oneself goes against human nature, but it is also a great relief to remember that that is what God wants! May he help us, day by day!