I’ve read this quote from Dallas Willard many times. Often I’ve read it, given a mental “Amen” and then immediately flushed it to make room for my next urgent task. Despite such nonchalance, God continues to keep this quote in front of me. So, I’ve been pondering and praying.
When confronted with the quote again this week, I wasn’t able to get past the word “arrange.” What does it mean to arrange my life? Even more, to arrange it so I’m content, joyful and appropriately confident?
There’s a part of me that wants to look Willard in the eye and say, “Go for it, buddy! Please do ‘arrange’ my life into a blissful, tea and crumpets existence. Good luck. Knock yourself out. Rescue me from children who self-sabotage. Bring peace to the gender wars raging in my home. Fix the broken, and find the lost toys. Shield me from manipulation. Keep me from passivity. Allow me more sleep while eliminating my mid-day sleepiness. Fill my cupboards with food and please stop the dog from barking. And while you’re at it, could you arrange for someone to get that sweaty sock smell out of our minivan? Please, Mr. Willard? If you could do these things, I’m sure I’d find the contentment, joy and confidence you command. Or would I have better odds with a lottery ticket?”
There, I feel better. And just for the record, I don’t believe in luck or play the lottery. I’m also not usually that cynical. But I can be – especially when I subscribe to the belief that life is about me. When I think I’m entitled to children who don’t fight, cars that never break-down, smart phones that are actually smart or a well-funded savings account. Such misguided beliefs open the door to disappointment and life slips into disarray. Joy becomes elusive and contentment is but a dream.
So what is Willard getting at when asks us to “arrange” for a good day with God? Well, it is true that only I control my attitude and disposition. I can be joyful or bitter. Covetous or content. When I swallow a worldview of entitlement, life’s frustrations will choke me. When personal peace and affluence are my goals, I’m left disturbed and needy. Perhaps Willard’s quote could be rephrased this way: what must I do to insure I find my joy, contentment and confidence in Jesus – no matter what?
Good question. The disgruntling things of life I ranted about earlier can’t be “arranged” away. That would be wonderful, but contrary to our calling as followers of Jesus. Besides, extinguishing all life’s troubles is not what Willard is instructing. What he is commanding is a properly arranged lifestyle of discipleship. An arrangement guided by the person and character of God. An arranging that puts God’s Kingdom first.
Arranging life that way starts with a conscious, moment-by-moment engagement of our story with God’s story. All of life is spiritual and we are servants to divine authority. Everything matters. Whether changing a diaper, filing a report, watching a child’s soccer game, meeting with a client or walking the dog there isn’t anything we think, say or do that doesn’t have spiritual significance. This means our activities influence the quality of our relationship with God, and others. What we do has a direct affect on the health of our soul.
Followers of Jesus are to shape and fill their souls with God’s Word, be guided and comforted by His Spirit, and participate in the community of His people. It is around these components of discipleship that we must make “arrangements.” We must arrange for times of meditation on Scripture. Our day should include listening to the Spirit through prayer. Our schedules must prioritize communing with other followers of Christ. Life arranged with God-first thinking will encourage a disposition characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Look at your life. How is it arranged? We are busy, and at times frustrated. But we must not allow such realities to cast a pall on our experience with the living God. We must fight for contented joy. We must place confidence in our God who is completely trustworthy.
Become infatuated with Jesus. Start, stop and adjust activities to get more of Him. Such intentionality is hard work. You will be opposed. But fight as you arrange to seek His Kingdom – first.