I wrote in my last column about the fact that I have just come to the end of a two-year course, during which there was a lot of space given over to discussion and personal reflection. We were continually prompted to be 'intentional' about what we were doing with those specific slots of time, in order to make them work best for us. Being intentional certainly deepened what I got out of the course – and helped me to connect further with God too.
On the last day, we were asked to consider what we felt God was challenging us to implement, particularly in the next few months. We were given an envelope and piece of paper and encouraged to write a letter to ourselves, in which we would 'check in' to see whether we had in fact done what we had been challenged to do. The letters and addressed envelopes were then collected up and will be sent to us in six months' time.
I found writing the letter a fascinating exercise – and a great way to spur on my own personal accountability. Knowing that I will get a letter from myself means I don't want to ignore those things I have intentionally set out to do.
While I have had the privilege of taking time out of my usual routine in order to spend a few days a month on the course, I don't think intentionality should be lost in everyday life. I often start the New Year, and the academic year, looking over a series of questions that helps me consider where I am in my life, particularly my walk with God and whatever goals I had set with Him for the previous year.
Whenever I meet up with a close friend we really try to check in with each other too. We ask those hard questions that perhaps we might actually want to gloss over, but which help us pinpoint where we are struggling and need to go back to God. We are also able to pray for one another and discuss how we can practically support one another in the days to come.
It is easy, in the busy-ness of life, to let these kinds of check-ups go, but without intentionality we can all too quickly get overwhelmed with the demands of each day. Suddenly, we realise we've gone a couple of months without actually considering our spiritual health. And yet the Bible tells us to 'Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is' (Ephesians 5:15–17).
I am currently reading Simplify by Bill Hybels, and I was really struck by the following quote: 'with nearly four decades of church work behind me, I am still learning that my schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become'.
The idea that my schedule could reflect who it is I want to be seemed almost revolutionary – and yet it reflects such a simple truth: 'For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also' (Matthew 6:21). What we prioritise in our diaries reflects what we hold in highest esteem – and also reveals the type of person we are becoming.
Do you ever stop and ask yourself these sorts of questions?:
Who do I want to become?
What is my diary telling me about my priorities?
What might I need to change?
How can I be more intentional about the way I live my life?
I truly believe that it is vital to take regular breaks intentionally, during which we take stock and think about these bigger questions. It really does help us to ensure that what we are giving our time to, day in, day out.
And it truly reflects what we hold most dear – and who we want to be.