The “to do” list is infamous today. Not all of us have a written list of things to do. We may get by with an inner list of what we need (or want) to do today, this week, or whenever. Written or not, a “to do” list can help us set priorities, find the resources necessary to do a task, and even ask someone to help us if we need it.
That’s true for a “to be” list, also. A “to be” list is simply a list of what we want to become, as in “I want to become healthier” or “I want to become more patient.” With a little thought most
of us could list qualities or characteristics we want. Some might be “pie in the sky” wishes (I want to be younger). Others might be quite possible (I want to be a better neighbor).
Wanting to be a better neighbor can help us think about what it means to be a better neighbor. We could learn our neighbors’ names, talk with them when we have the opportunity. In time we might discover we have a Christian neighbor or one who needs the Lord. We might even pray for them. We can do such things on the way to being a better neighbor—and to growing in Christ.
Christians and non-Christians alike often think of a Christian as someone who does this or that or does not do some things. The truth is that while behavior is important, being comes before doing. We are called “to be” in order “to do.” The new birth, a new heart, and a new way of seeing reality come before trying to do good.
So what sort of things might be on the “to be” list of a child of God? Certainly, scripture describes qualities and behaviors God wants in our lives. So which behaviors, which qualities are the most important in your life as a believer right now? Which ones has the Spirit brought to mind? Which ones have been difficult to develop over the years? As we let the Holy Spirit teach us His priorities we may find we have to start with some short-term goals. A big goal such as “I want to be more loving” may develop over time as we choose short-term goals such as “I want to be more loving to my children today.” Such a here and now, today sort of goal can be a starting point. The short-term “to be” goal is itself behavior that can bring a smile to God, to the children, and even to yourself.
A “to be” list can be a reminder that God gives us abilities and resources to grow in Him. He gives us the ability to think and even plan, to pray. Often He provides Christian friends to help
us. Still, we know that being more loving or kind, cheerful, honest, strict or bold,–whatever God wants us to be–isn’t a matter of “once and done.”
We don’t get to mark the “to be” items off our list easily or quickly. Often, behaviors we want to change have become ingrained habits and the qualities we want to develop may be hard to put into play. Still, the “to be” list has value—even if we can’t clear items off quickly. The “to be” list keeps our attention on what we need to be or want to be. With diligence and the grace of God, we will see progress on our “to be” items until maybe (just maybe) we can say, “I am a better neighbor” or “I have become more loving.”
Certainly doing and being go together, but the “springs of life” flow from the heart. In time what we are will show itself in what we do. Becoming will result in doing. As God gives us a “to be” list, then, may we keep it before us remembering God has “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV).