Several years ago I challenged myself to count my blessings. Someone casually mentioned the idea of ‘counting your blessings,’ and I began to wonder how many I would be able to list if I counted my blessings for an entire year. So, I tried it.
When I began my (roughly) daily blessings counting, I had a goal of writing down three blessings every day. In the end, I would have at least 1095 blessings listed, and I thought that would be an impressive list to look back on. 1095. That’s a lot.
But within the first few weeks, I began to sense that 1095 blessings in a year isn’t really that impressive at all. That’s because, on any given day, it was easy to rattle off three blessings and be done. It required very little thought on my part. After a few days of that, I started to wonder, “What’s the point of writing down the three most obvious things?”
I wasn’t satisfied with just living out something that I could already easily do. What I could only sense intuitively at the time was that I wanted to figure out how to do something that I couldn’t. I wanted to develop an ability to see more of God’s work than what was right in front of my nose. I wanted to see God working beyond what was obvious. And I knew that I didn’t know how to do that.
So, near the end of January, I re-set my blessing goal. I committed to finding 3200 blessings by the end of the year.
And, it got much harder to write that list. I found that I actually had to ponder what God was doing in my day. The blessings weren’t always obvious! There were bad days. There were boring days. There were days that didn’t go the way I’d planned. I was in the throes of a bout of depression. And some time in the midst of all my counting, my parents announced they were divorcing after 38 years of marriage.
Ladies. That list became a proving ground, of sorts. God was working into me an ability to do something that I’d never been able to do before.
God taught me a lot through that list. And, although I always knew He would bless far beyond a mere 3200, I was grateful that, at the year’s end, He gave me the ability to see enough of them to get me well past my goal. He is sweet and true, even when the good isn’t obvious.
And here is where I could wrap up this post and send you on your merry way. But you know me better than that, I think.
Because I hear stuff from ladies all the time who want to grow closer to Jesus. If I had a nickle for every time I heard a woman say:
- I want to pray more.
- I want to spend more time teaching my kids from the Word.
- I want to read my Bible more.
The list goes on. And they’re all good things. But then comes the phrase that kills them all:
Even if it’s only…
Finish that statement any way you want. No matter how you do it, it still leaves circumstance in control. It still leaves us living in the land of the obvious. It leaves us where we don’t have to think, make time, or push ourselves beyond what is comfortable or familiar.
So it goes like this: “I want to pray more, even if it’s only when I’m in the shower in the morning.” Or “I want to read my Bible more, even if it’s only a few verses with my morning coffee.”
Now, bear with me. Because there are some of you that are young in the faith and just praying at all is new for you and halleleuia if you are praying for a few minutes in the shower. But this is not what I’m talking about.
What I am talking about is us ladies who have been doing our Jesus thing for the last who-knows-how-many years. We’re already praying in the shower every so often and pulling out our Bible at breakfast a couple of times a week. But if the most we can think to dream up for our growth is merely to squeeze Jesus into our circumstances more often, then we are missing out on something big.
Ask yourself the question: is this where I want to be five years from now? Will I be satisfied if, five years down the road, I am consistently engaging in a shower prayer every day? Will I be satisfied if, in ten more years, I am consistently reading “a few verses” with my morning coffee?
If your answer is “no,” then let me kindly suggest you do this one thing:
Ruthlessly abandon the phrase “even if it’s only…”
Because this Jesus we follow is not an “even if it’s only” kind of guy. He’s an “all in” kind of guy. And while we may not be able to envision what “all in” looks like in every situation, there is absolutely no place for “even if it’s only…”
We get urges to grow in the Word, in prayer, in the leading of our children, in the spiritual disciplines. All of those things are from God. Don’t squelch them with petty goals that leave you bound to your circumstances. That’s not growth. Growth happens when we commit to doing more than what we’ve settled for in the past. It’s hard at first. But it pays off. And it’s the only thing that moves us beyond what the circumstances of life ever allow us to live.
Do you have a recurring urge to grow in some kind of spiritual discipline or gifting? Take that urge back to God and agree with Him that it will require a commitment to more than what already comes easily. Prayerfully commit to whatever specifics He is putting on your mind. Then take control of whatever circumstances you have to in order to be obedient.
It will likely not be easy or convenient. You may stumble and have to start again. That’s okay. But keep moving beyond what circumstances allow, beyond what is obvious, and beyond what you’ve always done. In the end, you will have far more growth than when you were still saying “even if it’s only…”