Life management is good. From the early stages of childhood, our parents worked to train us in proper life management. We learned to use the restroom, to brush our teeth, to bathe, how to swim, what deodorant was, and how to limit pieces of candy.
In college, we entered that interim phase of being adults while still having the care and guidance of our parents close at hand (at least with a phone call). We learned how to maintain a schedule, pace studying, keep a job, and take breaks when needed.
After college, we sought a career, maintained time for relationships, and learned how to file our taxes.
All the way through we learned how to manage life as responsible adults. But with that comes a certain set of dangers.
Don’t get me wrong. There are few things more unfortunate than a forty-year-old who lacks the appropriate maturity. Maturity (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, digital, etc.) is a good thing and should be sought.
But let me tell you something I’m learning. It is possible, over the course of years and decades, to turn life management (positive) into self-reliance (negative).
God has been exposing self-reliance in my own life again and again over the past several months. As I’ve been peeling the layers of my heart back one at a time, I have seen a “God, I got this” attitude frequently.
Here are some things I’ve identified that reveal a life management turned self-reliance:
1. Equating Lifestyle. The alarm goes off on my phone. I wake up, get ready, follow the command of my calendar with an about face. Out the door I go and into the day’s events. Just as 1 + 1 = 2, so I put one and one together to get the result I want. I work these deeds of the day until I return to my pillow all to wake up again with the same movements. Now that looks like life management. But with the absence of inner dependence on God, in reality, it is self-reliance. That has been the state of my heart.
2. Prayerlessness. Married to number one above, I can go through various events of the day, the entire day, without ever talking with God about what is going on. Even in key events or significant crisis I can push through, onward and upward, without involving God in prayer.
3. Joylessness. This is more the outcome of the previous two points. I have recently looked inside and admitted a lack of joy. It makes sense. God designed us and life to be enjoyed with him, not without him. Self-reliance precludes experiencing his presence in life’s events. And without that comes a lack of joy.
David said, “I have no good apart from you” and “in your presence there is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:1, 11).
As I put these thoughts together several weeks ago and looked them square in the face I had to admit my fault and change. I did that. Here are two changes that I’ve found helpful so far. Both are related to prayer.
First, I’m creating a rhythm and mind hook to not turn on my office computer until I have prayed. This is typically a short prayer of resignation but it packs a punch. I find it helps me be more aware of God-reliance at later points in my day.
Second, a friend pointed me to the idea of “the space between the space.” This has been a much more difficult discipline and rhythm to brew. The idea is to pause and pray as I finish one activity and before I begin the next. Again, this is brief. It also requires that I engage God about my emotions and how I’m doing. For me, it is usually accompanied by a deep breath (and sometimes journaling). It serves as an opportunity for me to be honest with God about how I am feeling, what’s going on in my day and to acknowledge his presence before a next step.
You may find a different pathway of prayer that leads from self to God-reliance. But I share these thoughts in hopes that they at least stir some thinking and action toward a God-reliant day (and life) for you.