If there is any one thing that I long for this year, it is to live each day intentionally. I want to be able to live under the hand of God, with his companionship, without wasting a thing, a joy, a sorrow, a piece of work, a time of rest. Time goes so fast, it is hard to escape the sense of it slipping past if there is no intention to live it. We have had a fantastic fortnight of Christmas celebration – probably the best ever in 27 Christmases together – and it has been full of intentional celebration – exhausting but full of generosity, whether that of God, of friends and family, or that which God has enabled us to give.
This poem, from Wendell Berry’s collection Given (2005), says something of this intentionality, but only a fraction, as it is in the life of the epistles where this intentional living is best demonstrated:
Teach me work that honors Thy work,
The true economies of goods and words
To make my arts compatible
With the songs of the local birds.
Teach me patience beyond work
And, beyond patience, the blest
Sabbath of Thy unresting love
Which lights all things and gives rest.
(Sabbath Poems, 2002)
Here is some more intentionality, from 2000 years ago – truly the wisdom of the ancients – but darned hard to live:
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light (Paul of Tarsus, writing to the church in Colosse in about AD 60)
And some more, from Peter, writing maybe 20 years later:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is shortsighted and blind, and has forgotten that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
This stuff is a manifesto for life – to challenge myself to live it, but to provide the heart of the challenge to those who would live sloppily, especially as parents or teachers. Living intentionally does not mean for a moment that we do not celebrate or rejoice, but it will require from me a deeper focus, a purer and more rigorous craftsmanship in my leadership than I have been used to since I began this current job. We are not supermen. We can’t live like this all the time, but that is no excuse for not putting our shoulder to the plough and trying. As Dallas Willard says over and over again (read The Great Omission for a start), grace is opposed to earning, not opposed to effort. We have work to do, rest to celebrate, a new year to live for God’s glory. Let’s get to it, brethren!