November 19, 2007

Taking off my chains

It is not that long ago that I could keep up with my vast to-do list, but lately I’ve groaned at the length and breadth of it. My father used to explain things with the phrase “too many birthdays” and that is likely part of it, but there is more.

I read an amazing book about Attention Deficit Disorder and realized that I’ve been fighting ADD most of my life. My symptoms are not as severe as some, but I definitely recognize myself in that book. However, instead of distressing me, reading it produced an odd reaction; I feel set free. I understand myself and my desires to do, do, do. These come from a deep sense of something missing, an approval or connection that I cannot go back in time and secure. Instead, I’ve been an achiever hoping to get it by notches in my belt.

This isn’t about pleasing God. I know that I “fall short of the glory of God” and that my relationship with Him is based solely on Christ and His righteousness, not any goodness or good that I can do. I am spiritually at rest knowing that Jesus did it all for me, but somehow I’ve not been able to rest in a practical sense. As I read Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté, God opened my eyes and started me seriously examining all that I put on that infamous to-do list. Is it His will? Or do I add it simply to fill in the blanks in my ADD thinking?

Again, this is not a spiritual issue in that I’m not doing “good works” in a vain or prideful sense that I can earn my own salvation. Yet there are some parallels. People do try that. I read about it again in Hebrews 12 this morning.

The author of Hebrews (some think it was the Apostle Paul) wrote, “For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded . . . ) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God . . . to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant. . . .

He is comparing the actual mountain where God appeared to Moses and gave the Law, to that spiritual and heavenly mountain where God appears in human flesh and offers salvation by grace. I’m thinking, if I could be saved by law-keeping, I would be bound by hundreds of rules and regulations, my life strictly controlled and in constant judgment. However, keeping the Law is a burden that no one can bear, and isn’t that just like my impossible to-do list?

The New Testament says that the Law was never intended to save me, but to bring me to my knees asking for mercy and grace. Jesus, who is the Lawgiver on the throne, moved into my life and became the Law-Keeper in my heart. I rest in Him, trust Him, and He enables me to live in the will of God. I supply the muscle and shoe leather, but He supplies the motivation, the strength, and all the leading and guiding so I can live as He wants me to live.

When I start adding stuff to that, I am putting a burden on myself, one He does not intend that I carry. I’m also essentially inserting earplugs. Hearing God’s instruction becomes difficult when my mind is full of all the stuff I need to get done today.

Over the years, my way of fighting these conflicting ‘voices’ has been extreme self-discipline and time-management. I can do it all, or at least I thought I could, but not anymore.

God has not called me to ridiculous multitasking. He asks that I love and obey Him, not take on a whole bunch of stuff. The author of Scattered Minds is not a Christian, but his diagnosis is amazingly accurate. From reading his book, I realize that taking on a bunch of stuff will not fill the empty space created by things that happened when I was a small child. From reading the Bible, I realize that this space is already filled. I just need to live in that fullness and quit trying to fill it myself.

Reading this may not make a whole lot of sense to most people, but I need to put it down in black and white. I also need to listen intently (difficult for me) and stay focused on the direction God gives me. If He doesn’t clearly tell me what to do, then I need to wait, not add another thing that ‘looks good’ or that even ‘looks easy’ to my list.

Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” This is about sin, but today I realize that it is also about the bondage of my ADD ambitions that show up on my impossible and enslaving to-do list.


Exuberant Color said...

I always wondered if I don't have ADD too, but like you, not severe. I read a book about workaholics and saw myself everywhere in it. Afterwards I was able to drop some of the impossible demands I put on myself.

LC said...

Oh, that is so good to hear. There is hope for those of us who do this to ourselves!

I've read other books that say "drivenness" (their term for workaholic behavior) is a sub-conscious attempt to try and please a parent that never gave any praise. That was not true for me, but when I read Mate's book, I understood what was missing. You would likely get much from it... however, I gave it to my daughter and she said she "can't relate to anything in it"... which I suppose is good, but I was hoping it would give us something meaty to talk about!

I'm going to quilt today, no matter what... and that is determination, not drivenness!!


Exuberant Color said...

My parents were very sparce in giving any compliments to us kids. Then I married a person who only was complimentary when he wanted something, otherwise I was to "toe the mark" and be quiet. I guess you could say I have been looking for acceptance all my life. I am comfortable with where I am now though.

LC said...

Oh, thank God for that! Me too, but it took a long time to get to this place of contentment. I'm so thankful for it, but also the journey because it has developed 'spiritual muscles' that would not otherwise be.

Oh, my determination didn't produce yesterday... yikes, I keep teasing my husband that I need a houseboy!