Some (More) Thoughts on Living Intentionally
by Jason Ashcraft
OK, so I made a resolution at the beginning of 2011 that I would live more intentionally this year. I even programmed my welcome greeting on my cell phone to read “Live Intentionally” when I turn it on. It’s been harder than I expected it would be. It was a great thought, I think, and a great jumping off point, but I found that putting intentional living into daily practice has been a chore. Sometimes I even forget that I am trying to live intentionally. Life moves fast, and there are many things vying for my attention. So not only do I have to remember to live intentionally, but have to remember to be intentional about remembering to be intentional. Confused yet?
Some might ask, before I get too deep here, what I mean by “living intentionally.” It’s a valid question. And I don’t know that I have a definitive answer for you. I think that the answer will be different for each person. I think that to arrive at your own answer, you need to ask yourself some honest questions about what is really important to you verses where you spend your time and energy.
You know, it’s really easy to simply exist…to let life just determine where you will end up. It’s easy to come home at the end of a long day and plop down in front of the TV. It’s easy to do nothing! But is that truly living? Or does God have something more for you? I think God does have something more for me, and for you. God didn’t create us to be robots, but he also didn’t create us to just be lumps of clay.
When I think of a life that exudes intentionality, I think of someone who lives with a purpose, who understands the responsibilities and call they have been charged with, someone who values the lives of those around them. I think that when you see a person who lives an intentional lifestyle, you take notice. They have a spark and appear to be present in the moment with whomever or whatever they are involved with. They exhibit a true joy because, I believe, they are not just letting life happen. We shouldn’t either. We only get one life, and it’s pretty short.
An example that comes to mind for me is life with my kids, my 2 girls, ages 5 & 3. I know am to spend time with them, build them up, teach them, help them grow, right? The Bible is full of instructions on how we are to live, and it addresses children specifically…Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”… Psalm 127:3, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”… Mark 10:14, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Jesus makes time for the children (and for us!), so we should too.
But often I find myself being in the same room or the same house as them, but not actually being with them. I am working on my own projects or on the computer or whatever. Being “with” them means more than simply being in the same place as them. It means interacting, showing them that they are important to me, that I value them, and that I “want” to spend time with them. And that takes effort…effort that I sometimes don’t feel that I have after a long, stressful day at work. But I really do have it, if I’m being honest. I seem to have enough energy left to do “my own thing.” But is that what I know God has called me to do when he entrusted these 2 precious lives to me? They are only kids once, and I have very few years to be with them at this precious stage where they are changing so much and learning so much and becoming who they will become. And I definitely want to be a part of that. I want to influence these lives. See, while it is so much about them, it’s not only about them…it’s also about me.
That’s one area of my life where I need to live intentionally, investing my time and energy intentionally in my children (and my wife). That’s where I have to check myself throughout the day and week, asking if I am truly living this intentional lifestyle I have decided to live. I have to look honestly, and make adjustments to get back on track. Again, it takes work. But doesn’t anything worth having and worth doing a quality job on take work and concentrated effort? If you think about the performance level we see from professional athletes or musicians, you know that it doesn’t just happen. They are intentional about their craft. We’ll see it in our results too, if we invest our time intentionally.
What is it in your life that you need to be more intentional about? Is it relationships…with spouse, kids, family, friends? Is it in your prayer life, or walk with God? I think this is where you can take the ball and run with it, seeking how you can best live intentionally in the various areas of your life. I’ve talked about my kids (I guess I really am a parent now!) because they are important to me. We aren’t going to get any more minutes added to our days, so I think the decision is ours to make regarding what activities or habits or other “time suck” it is that we need to give up in order to maximize the time we do have. I don’t think when I am on my deathbed (or when you are…) that I will be saying that I wish I had spent more time surfing the web or watching TV or playing Angry Birds, instead of investing in these few precious years I was given on earth.
Good luck to you as you endeavor to live a life worth living and spending wisely the time you have been given.