When you are a Type A goer and doer like me, it's easy to struggle with what I call the "I've Only's". My list of things to accomplish is ALWAYS growing and my expectation is always to accomplish said list at a rate much faster than I could ever hope to keep up with, which only causes me to push myself to try and live life at a pace that is simply not sustainable long term.
So what are these "I've Only's" that I suffer from? Well, sometimes it is when I have set a goal for myself to complete a list of 25 things and am ONLY able to accomplish 15 of them before the day is done. Sometimes it is when I sit down to dream and plan for the future and though I might have a list of 5 or 10 or even 20 amazing things I could celebrate in the recent past I am stuck staring at the 2, 4, or 8 things that I "failed" to succeed at doing or completing. And other times it's when I'm scrolling Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, seeing all of the amazing things other moms are doing with their kids, how they are going the extra mile to care for their families with special little touches, and thinking to myself "Goodness, they do ALL of that and I've only..." Can anyone else relate?
The "I've only's" of life are very dangerous. They can cloud our minds, control our thoughts, and distract us from the beauty of life all around us. It's a mental battle that we can't afford to push off or ignore, but it's hard to know where to even begin in this fight for freedom from the land of "I've Only". After all, it's a mindset we have lived with and carried, for many of us, for all of our lives. So where do we start? For me, my first stop is always God's Word.
As I was praying over and pondering ALL the things I began reading in Genesis chapter 5. This is where we run into all the "begat's" leading up to Noah. You know what I mean. Those portions that read Adam begat Seth...Seth begat Enos...Enos begat Cainan....etc...etc. Though I have read through the Bible more than once over my life, I honestly kinda skim over these sections. I tend to get to those "begats" and kinda "yada yada" my way past them (shout out to all you Seinfeld fans out there!) But this time I intentionally slowed down and read this chapter line by line. Word by word. Taking my time to slow down, read, pray, and listen for what the Lord might want to speak to me through even the most obscure of passages. I read through the entire chapter with no great revelations or nudgings from the Lord, but then I came to verse 32 and it said "And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth..."
Wait...what?!?!? Noah was 500 years old and he was JUST having kids? Yes, people lived much longer then than they do now but even in the scope of the childbearing ages of those listed in that genealogy, NOAH. WAS. OLD! As I dug a bit further I discovered that it is estimated that Noah was between 525 and 545 years old when he built the ark. And to fill the picture in a bit more completely, Noah was 950 years old when he died. That means that he was over halfway through life before having kids and even older when he built the ark. Did you catch that? Noah had lived over half of his life by the time the event that defined his life and legacy took place. The man lived for 500 years before he even had CHILDREN, let alone do anything "significant" for the Lord.
I wonder if Noah ever found himself lost in the land of "I've Only's". Living life. Day in and day out thinking...."I've ONLY". I've ONLY worked in the fields and harvested crops. I've ONLY provided a safe and comfortable home for my wife and kids. I've only...I've only...I've only...
Little did Noah know that the Lord was using these years of ONLY to prepare him for a bold step of obedience by asking him to build an ark and, in doing so, rescuing the lineage of the coming Christ from absolute destruction.
So after taking some time to think on the story of Noah and pray over how this little passage of scripture found in Genesis 5 relates to me and my situation in 2020, the Lord laid on my heart a few things we can do to help us fight our way out of the land of "I've only's" and replant ourselves firmly in the promises of the Lord.
(1) Start by Giving Thanks. Many times it is in the land of "I've Only's" that the Lord is preparing to use us in ways we could never think or imagine on our own. Just think of David who spent day after day tending sheep before he ever became King. Joseph who spent years in a dungeon before he ever reached a place of respect and honor. And even Jesus, who was "only" a carpenters son until He was revealed as the Savior of the World! So can I encourage you, don't despise the days of "I've only", but instead, LEAN INTO THEM. Or rather...lean into HIM and give thanks for your many blessings! I have a feeling He is longing to do something deep and extraordinary in YOU as you go through the day to day but first we have to take our eyes off of what we have not seen yet and remind ourselves of all of the many blessings we already have! Maybe start a gratitude list and write out all of the things you are thankful for. You can even start a prayer journey - writing down your requests and joyfully marking them off as they are answered. Or maybe even start by journaling each and every day, both the highs and the lows, so that over time you can look back and see the Lord's faithfulness as He strengthened you and encouraged you and be reminded of the truth that there are NO wasted seasons with the Lord. Many times it is in the ordinary things that we can see God's hand working in extraordinary ways. We just have to be watching, listening, and waiting.
(2) Make it a point to dream with GOD for your future. Remember, HE'S NOT DONE WITH YOU YET! Do you still have dreams, goals, and desires that you have not yet seen come about? Well, guess what - YOU STILL HAVE TIME!!! As long as you have breath in your lungs, the Lord has a mighty plan and purpose for your life. You never know, your "ark" moment with the Lord might be revealed to you in your 80's and not in your 20's or 30's as you envisioned. But as the Bible says in Galations 6:9 "Don't grow weary!" Don't give up! The Lord is never late! He is always RIGHT ON TIME! So keep pursuing those passions. Keep praying over those dreams. And keep faithfully seeking and serving Him in the waiting. I'd also encourage you to share those God-given dreams with a friend, a spouse, a life coach - someone who can pray with you, support you, and encourage you as you continue to press forward toward the things the Lord has laid upon your heart!
(3) Change your thinking. We have to be intentional in remember that 2+2 no longer equals 4. 2 + 2 = Infinity! I'm not gonna lie, it was almost painful for my math-loving self to type that simple equation because CLEARLY 2 + 2 ALWAYS equals 4! No questions and no exceptions! But all of those logical laws and rules that I love so very much mean NOTHING when you put the Lord in the equation. You see, with the Lord my 2 "I've Only's" of the day plus His power and anointing always equals infinity. Why? Because there is no end to what my little becomes when mixed with His goodness, faithfulness, power, and anointing. Even when we feel like we are living a mundane life that is leaving no lasting effect on anyone or anything, God is working behind the scenes and using ALL the things for HIS good, for HIS glory, and for HIS fame! So at the end of the day, when you've typed that final text message, you've whipped down the counter for the last time, you've walked out of the office and locked and closed the door for the day - take a moment to stop and surrender all of those accomplishments to the Lord. Be the person who works incredibly hard but prays even harder! There's an old saying that says "Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God." Well, I have my own version - I'm gonna work like it depends on me but pray even harder because it all depends on my way making, miracle-working God. Who's with me?
(4) Remind yourself, this life is not all about you! Ouch. This one is painful but so true. Every time I find myself in the downward spiral of "I've Only" I have to remind myself that this life is not my own. Yes the Lord has blessed me with talents, dreams, passions, and goals but in the end, it is His leading and His timing that matter. It isn't about my fame but is for His glory. It is not about my pleasure but is for His joy. And it is in these moments of realization, surrender, and refocus that I am able to stop the spiral and plant my feet firmly once again on Him, my solid rock and foundation. In these moments it is so helpful to ground our thoughts fully in God's word and His promises. You can do this simply by opening up God's word or putting on a worship song and reminding yourself, not just of what He does, but also of who He is! You can also post scriptures declaring who God is all over your house, in your car, or even make one of those scriptures the image on the lock screen of your phone so that everywhere you look you are reminded what this life is all about and why you started running this race in the first place. You can even take it a step further and find an opportunity to volunteer and help those in need. There is something incredibly powerful that happens when we take the time to take our eyes off of ourselves and put our focus purposefully on the needs of others. After all, we can't fully grasp the heart and mission of God without grasping a heart for His people.
So having said ALL of that, does this mean we don't work hard and pursue our passions? Absolutely not! CHASE those dreams! SHARPEN those skills. USE your gifts. Live every single day with passion and purpose! Just don't lose sight of the fact that you aren't going to accomplish it all in a day, a week, a month, a year, or maybe even in this decade. But as long as you are chasing those dreams faithfully WITH THE LORD then you will see His goodness every step of the way and you won't find yourself camping in the land of "I've Onlys". Instead, you will be able to see clearly that you are living and standing firmly in the promises of God. And I don't know about you, but there is no better place I would rather be than standing and living right smack dab in the middle of God's goodness!