I recently saw someone singing the praises of the bullet journal on Twitter.
This is not a keepsake book used to record different kinds of bullet shells, it is one of many products marketed to people who have more on their plates than they know what to do with.
As a culture we spend millions of dollars not on getting things done but on things to help us just get out of the gate. Just to get started.
We live in a work heavy culture where people work more hours a week and take less vacation than almost any other Western country.
We have a lot to do. So much, in fact, that it can feel a little overwhelming.
Life can quickly feel out of our control when we stare down all that we are expected to do.
The Bullet Journal is just a reincarnation of age-old wisdom.
It is a blank book that helps you make lists.
It gives you a system to write down all the stuff you need to do…
And helps you prioritize what needs to get done first.
The tweeter praised the joy of crossing off an item from one’s list.
I confess I know that joy. When we do that, we feel like we are in control; we feel like we have wrestled some of our agency back from the chaos of the world.
And while I love my bullet journal and all of the little apps and tricks I used to manage my time, I can’t help but notice that Jesus did not send out the apostles with bullet journals.
When we look at the apostolic packing list Jesus gives the disciples, we might draw the conclusion that he was trying to toughen them up. He wanted them to sink or swim. It is a continuation from last week’s sparse packing list where Jesus tells those who would follow him not what they need to bringbut rather what they must leave behind. One could be forgiven to conclude that Jesus was teaching them self-reliance.
But as some of you longtime disciples undoubtedly know, if this whole Kingdom of God enterprise depended on selves like you and me, it likely would not have gotten past Galilee.
Jesus is definitely cultivating a kind of reliance but it’s not self-reliance, it’s God reliance.
Jesus is not trying to make seventy lone wolves, he is making a flock of sheep, reliant on the good shepherd alone.
It is belief not in our own abilities but in those of God in Jesus Christ that will make us marvel at the harvest.
Because as helpful as the bullet journal can be and as much control we can feel when we cross off those things from our checklists, life cannot be confined between the narrow space between those covers.
Look at Naaman. He has seen a lot of success. He is crossing stuff off his list left and right. He is moving up in the world. And yet things beyond his or any person’s control have him stumped. He’s sick and he can’t fight or bullet journal his way out of it.
Worst of all to him, he can’t even spend his way to health.
His problems are out of his control.
And then a little servant girl speaks of a man in Samaria who might be able to help him.
When he hears there’s a chance that a powerful prophet can clean him, he jumps at it.
But he jumps the wrong way.
Rather than go to the source, he tries to call in his political favors.
He has his king talk to Elisha’s king so that Elisha might be compelled, not asked, to heal him of his leprosy. The King of Israel may not know much but he knows enough not to think he has the power of God at his disposal and tells Naaman as much.
But despite himself, Naaman’s cause is not lost.
Seemingly by hearsay, Elisha here’s about Naaman’s problem. He tells the king to send the mighty warrior to him.
So Naaman loads up all of his wealth, power, and prestige, all of his influence all of his tokens of control and comes to meet the prophet of Israel.
But Elisha doesn’t need to see the pomp and circumstance.
He doesn’t even go out to see Naaman.
Rather, this humble hermit sends out a messenger to the grand warrior with a simple home remedy.
Naaman, who had come all this way with all of this stuff isn’t even given the courtesy of seeing his would-be physician.
He wants a show! He wants some magic words. He wants to know how it works!
But Elisha just says go take a dip in the river.
But Naaman at least wants a more exotic and flashy river than the humble Jordan.
He wants an epic journey to Lake Tahoe not a short trip to lower Garr.
He’s about to go off in a huff when another one of his servants meekly suggests he at least try it.
In what is perhaps the wisest decision we see Naaman make, he listens to the unnamed servant and washes in the Jordan.
And, lo and behold, it works.
And here is the take home.
All of our tasks, all of our problems, all of our lists turn not on us but on God’s grace.
From the little things that keep us up at night, to the direction of the country, to the challenges facing the church; these all will be taken care of not by our work but by the grace of God.
This is why when the apostles return home with only success Jesus helps them remember their priorities:
Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
So when you are up at night or staring down a daunting task, perhaps the first thing you should do is cross off on your lists:
“God’s got this”
It is only from faith in this first truth that any other success can flow.
I leave you with this treasure of the prayer book:
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we, who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon thy eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.