Like most folks, I often struggle with trying to balance the various tasks in my life. I keep busy with jobs, friends, family, ministry, home repair, hobbies, and an assortment of projects that come my way. Most of the time, I like living this way. It’s a real boost to feel like I’m getting a lot accomplished.
It’s impossible to maintain forward momentum all the time, however. When things inevitably get bogged down, my very full life can begin to feel claustrophobic. My existence starts feeling like a traffic jam.
In times like these, I begin to look for ways to simplify, to let go of all the non-essential elements of my life. I seek ways to be truly present to that which is most critical, letting the rest fall away. But how can I tell which of my activities are vital, and which are optional?
Sitting in prayer this morning, pondering this very question, I was led to the following passage from Jeremiah:
…In the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” (Jeremiah 7:22-23)
Just like the Hebrews, I devise all sorts of sacrifices and burnt offerings as a way of staying in control of my life. I devise all sorts of tasks that I am going to do for God – or at least for a perceived greater good. Just like the people of ancient Israel, I set my own priorities about what needs to get done, and then look for God’s blessing. Often, I even convince myself that it was all God’s idea in the first place!
But the essential command that God gives is to obey his voice and walk only in the way he commands. We receive this command repeatedly throughout the law and the prophets, and finally from Jesus himself. We are his friends if we do what he commands us.
In those times when my projects and priorities are weighing me down, choking out the life of God’s seed in me, I must return to a listening posture. Lord, what is it that you are commanding me? How can I be faithful to the life that you want me to be living right now? Rather than trying to develop my own program, a contrived simplicity based on human wisdom, I need the courage to surrender my own agendas and follow Jesus.
Such surrender is terrifying, because I don’t know where this path leads. I don’t know which of my precious ambitions I may have to give up. Ironically, my self-made sacrifices can be the hardest things to give over to God.
Have you experienced this kind of surrender? How have you been asked to change your life? What does it look like to give up your human burnt offerings and sacrifices, bringing instead an offering of attentive obedience?