Our lives are built around “to do lists.” Like most people I keep ongoing and always growing to do lists. There is my work to do list, my home to do list, my call/write to do list, my reading to do list, my prayer to do list, my bucket to do list, and on and on the to do lists grow. These to do lists guide and inform my life of the ways in which I should and/or want to spend my time. But my recent study for a sermon I gave on the subject of the Sabbath, entitled “Faith to Rest” has sensitized me to the equal if not more important idea of keeping a “to don’t list.”
We live in a culture where “to don’t lists” are lost in the flood of to do lists. Our modern world is driven by a busyness that is a by product of the high value we place on accomplishment and accumulation. Consequently the idea of taking time to stop or cease things is anathema to our drive to keep the graphs of life moving up and to the right.
The Bible however confirms our real-life experience that the graph does move down as frequently and readily as it moves up. The passage of Ecclesiastes popularized by The Byrds’ song “Turn, Turn, Turn” in the mid 1960’s says it plainly and painfully. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) It might be summed up like this. There is a time to continue and a time to stop, a time to do and a time to don’t!
The word for Sabbath, derives from the Hebrew word shavat which is frequently translated rest, but more accurately means to cease or to stop (work/doing). The idea of the weekly observance of a Sabbath is a good place to begin when thinking about a “to don’t list.” Although there may be many bad or sinful things that should naturally go right to the top of our “to don’t lists,” the things we often overlook are the good things. Sabbaths were created by God as seasons to suspend even the productive and beneficial things in our lives for the higher purpose of renewed consecration to Him.
A proper “to don’t list” then should include bad things, good things that are simply not the best things and even the best things that need a rest.
Here is a list of clarifying questions that I am finding helpful in determining what things need to be priorities in creating a “to don’t list.”
1. What things in my life am I doing that I need