Sometimes I wonder if I’m too bound by to-do-lists. Every morning I make a list of tasks in my diary and take great pleasure at the end of the day in being able to cross them off. Some days my lists are unreasonably long. A good day is a day with little left undone. Ah, the sense of satisfaction! The feeling of accomplishment!
I’m not talking about Mary Helen’s honey-do-list: cleaning the garage, vacuuming the car, painting the cellar stairs, or getting rid of two decades of useless files. No, no, I’m talking about substantial tasks like finishing a chapter in a new novel, figuring out how to use Twitter to network, or add a page to my web site. Okay, I admit, I need to pay attention to her list too.
But whatever lists we make, invariably interruptions interfere. A snowstorm hits the area and travel plans are shelved. Or a toothache sends me to the dentist. The car needs servicing. In fact, a debilitating cold with all the miserable symptoms has laid me low for days and seriously delayed this blog.
We’ve all noticed that life is messy. It is irregular. It is unpredictable and disorderly. It keeps slopping over the boundaries of our carefully prepared plans. As Robbie Burns was wont to say: The best laid plans o mice and men gang aft aglee. In retirement, we at least have the luxury of adjusting our plans without our paycheck being docked. Salaried workers have a greater challenge than those of us in the grey generation.
How do we handle unpredictability? Since life is so full of it, maturity must include the ability to deal with interruptions without undue frustration. The apostle Paul wrote; “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”(Phil. 4:11). His equanimity is quite incredible, given that Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, hungry, imprisoned, stoned, misunderstood and lied about.
My interruptions are minor compared to his. But the fact that Paul learned how to cope with terrible circumstances does give me hope. We can learn to accept interruptions if we tap into the resources Paul enjoyed. He knew the universe was not in the hands of blind fate. He had an unshakeable confidence that all things work together for good, because the Lord God is seated on the throne of the universe, and that God’s grace is sufficient for every trial.
Obviously, I have a long, long way to go if I would develop the kind of flexibility, freedom from irritability and trust in God’s plan that Paul modeled.