How to do the things you don’t want to do

I hate lists almost as much as I hate math. Seriously. I will do anything to keep from having to enumerate life. My brain thinks freedom is found in being untethered, in lyric and cadence but never with bullet points or numbers. It also thinks that I can remember and know and keep up with much more than I actually can. Turns out, my old brain is rather forgetful.

So when we recently decided that our grocery budget was out of control, I began to have minor panic attacks. You see, feeding three boys (and their father) isn’t exactly a job for the faint of heart. Or for the list haters or the math challenged.

A budget. A list. My sweet husband suggests these things tentatively. He knows me well. And my current strategy: go to the store in a huge rush everyday and grab some things to keep people fed isn’t really sustainable. With all the boys playing sports, our crazy schedules and their ever increasing appetites, we are going to have to make some changes if we want to decrease our spending.

Math and lists are going to be involved. I am trying to figure out how to stage a revolt. Because if I am being honest? I don’t want to do the work. I just want the budget to fix itself.

Ever been there? In the middle of trying to make a change in your life only to realize you are actually going to have to “do the things” in order for the change to happen?

It may seem obvious, but often I live as though I can think my way into a change; pray more, pay more attention, intend to do better and then, BOOM change will occur. No hard work required.

I want kids who behave without having to enforce discipline, writing done without rough drafts, lessons learned without heartache. I turn away from the hard things in search of the peace. But it never comes.

If You Want to Walk on Water, You have to Get Out of the Boat”  is the title of an old book by one of my favorite authors, John Ortberg. Based on the story from Scripture about Peter attempting to walk on water with Jesus,  it speaks into the way we are called to face a life challenge or a change.

And be it budget issues or complicated life decisions, it is always Peter who comes to mind when I know that action is going to be required. Peter, teetering on the edge of a wave-battered boat, his eyes fixed on Jesus out there in the sea.  And as he called into the wind, “Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water,” I imagine Peter knew what he was going to have to do next (Matthew 14:28).

And like Peter we can holler into the wind of our decisions and know what it is going to take. Get out of the boat. Do the math. Make the list. Have the hard conversation. Enforce the discipline. Forgive the wrong done. Love, anyway. We can know these things all day long.

But it is that leap from knowing to doing that is the hardest to make.

You see, I love the story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus. I love it for many reasons. But when I try to live it out in the middle of a real life challenge? I find that I want to change the narrative.

I don’t actually want Peter to have to leap out of the boat and sink into the waves. I want it to go like this instead: Jesus walks across the water right up to the boat where Peter is and he gets in with him. The. End.

Peter is with Jesus and no one has to do anything crazy like jump into a churning ocean or sink into some waves. All is well and they go sailing off into happily ever after. Much better story, right?

I want the miracle without the abandon. I don’t want to have to trust in what I cannot see.

But here’s the question.

If Peter hadn’t gotten out of that boat, what would he have missed?

I see my own life reflected in the mirror that question holds up. Maybe you ,too?

You see, if Peter had stayed in, Jesus would have still loved him. But. Peter would have missed the chance to go for a walk with his Savior.

Staying in the boat means we miss the walking part.

This week, for me,  it is family budgets and grocery lists, kids and decisions, tricky relationships; the boring everyday stuff of life. It feels stifling and sends me searching for holy and sacred places where Jesus seems more likely to be.

But then. I sit and do the thing. The list. The numbers. The conversation. And as I work, I feel the Spirit with me.

Freedom, he whispers into the whir of everyday life, isn’t being able to avoid the hard things. Freedom is knowing you never have to do them alone. Come on, get out of the boat and let’s go for a walk.

***A little epilogue***

When I finished writing this piece, I did what I always do when I finish writing, I went for a walk. And the podcast that popped up next in my queue was Episode 10 of Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing. So I hit play. It’s all about boats and water and making lists … I. Am. Not. Kidding. I am pretty sure God was laughing. And, that he likes lists.

Click on the link above and listen to the episode if you have a minute. It just might change your day like it changed mine. 

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