Purity of heart is to will one thing.—Søren Kierkegaard
Many of us believe that God should be leading our lives. But most of us, in moments of honesty, will admit he is rarely actually leading. Most of us have the luxury of planning and control. We get to decide what happens, from our daily schedules to our yearly calendars. I’ve been booking my 2019 calendar for months already. So how do we make room in our busy, highly planned lives for God to take the lead?
This is what I’ve been trying to figure out lately. It helped to have my schedule cleared for a month or two because of broken bones (most recently my son’s leg), moving countries and a raging storm that affected flights in and out of the airport. My plans were thwarted, and I couldn’t help but surrender to the idea that maybe God had some other plans. Plans to put a 15-year-old ahead of my speaking schedule, for starters. Plans to make my home mission my first mission right now. To pay attention to my people, up close and personal. Mission through lunches and Lego parties, school forms and bath times. It’s not the normal, high-powered, frenzied, road-tripping, change-the-world life I’m used to. But I’ll tell you this—it feels more like God is leading. And it’s fascinating to surrender to his lead instead of mine. Surrender is a key word in this season.
What drives me most days is significance. I want what I do and who I am to matter. I think everyone has this hope. The problem is how you measure significance. I mean, the thing that makes our lives significant isn’t successful ventures or big crowds or even perfect families. The thing that gives our lives real, lasting, eternal significance is doing God’s will. Jesus made this super clear. He said he simply did one thing with his whole life—the will of his Father. And if you look at the trajectory of his ministry, he seems to waste a lot of time on seemingly insignificant ventures. Small towns, low places and rowdy people. Not the normal successful trajectory of significant living. But in the witness of history, there has never been a more significant life than the one Jesus lived. His life changed the world forever.
Maybe we over-complicate what living a significant life looks like. Maybe it could look like one thing—doing God’s will. I was talking to my Infinitum partner (find out more about this awesome way of living our faith every day here) about this very thing. And she said that when she wakes up, she asks God how she can obey him today. “What would you like me to do today?” She tells God that her desire for the day is to do his will, and then she looks for opportunities to do just that. As she was telling me about this daily habit, I was arguing with myself about how it couldn’t be that simple—and realizing that is exactly what it is. Simple.
Just one thing. Today. Present tense. Available. Not forced, but surrendered. Open handed. Not panicked, but trusting. Trusting that God has a plan and invites me to be part of it on a daily basis. Believing with my thoughts and actions that his plan is better than any I could have possibly thought up or imagined. Ditching my ideals of significance for simple obedience.
It’s becoming clearer that when Jesus told the church that the way he measured love was through people who did what he said, he meant it, because it’s the only way that love can be demonstrated—in relationship. You have one job. To do God’s will.
I’m starting to get better at this “letting God lead” business and I’m simplifying my life goals. It’s down to one thing. To will one thing.
Major Danielle Strickland is the evangelism consultant for the Canada and Bermuda Territory.
Here is the full poem by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard if you are interested in turning it into a daily prayer.
To Will One Thing
Father in Heaven, what are we without you?
What is all that we know, vast accumulation though it be,
But a chipped fragment if we do not know you?
What is all our striving?
Could it ever encompass a world,
But a half-finished work
If we do not know you?
You, the One who is one thing and who is all.
So may you give
To the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing
To the heart, sincerity to receive this and this only
To the will, purity that wills only one thing
In prosperity, may you grant perseverance to will one thing
Amid distraction, collectedness to will one thing
In suffering, patience to will one thing.
You that gives both the beginning and the completion
May you early, at the dawn of the day,
Give to the young the resolution to will one thing
As the day wanes, may you give to the old
A renewed remembrance of that first resolution
That the first may be like the last
And the last like the first
In possession of a life that has willed only one thing,
To know God.
—Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. Translated from the Danish.
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