Discovering the “One Thing”

One of the most interesting things that happens on a Personal Retreat I call “the one thing.”  In the original City Slickers movie, Billy Crystal asks Curly what the secret to life is.  Curly holds up his index finger and says the secret is “one thing.” When asked what the “one thing” is, Curly tells him, “That’s for you to figure out.”

As I pondered this concept on my way home from work today I recalled a “one thing” passage in Scripture:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious about troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:41)

I believe the “one thing” is simply the presence of God in your life and an awareness of that presence.  We talk about “walking in the Spirit,” “letting Christ live his life through you,” and other phrases, but do we really get this?  Do we get this the way Mary did and Martha did not?

In any given day, like you, I have a “To Do” list in my head that exceeds my capacity to fulfill it.  More significantly, much of my list is just that — my list — what I think I should be doing with my time.  It is usually a heavy burden which Christ offers to trade for his lighter, better fitting load.  I am convinced that most of time we are involved in a whole bunch of activities God has really not led us into, but rather we have led ourselves into.

But how about a different approach to daily living like the one God expressed to Isaiah:

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

— Isaiah 30:20-21

The above passage describes a continual sense of presence and direction from God.  This is relatively easy on a Personal Retreat, while being much more difficult in regular daily life.  On a retreat, time fades into insignificance in those days alone with no agenda, no “To Do” list and none of the usual pressures.  As our plans fade away God’s voice becomes more audible, making it easy to just be in his presence.

But what about our every day experience?  It is still possible to do this if we’re willing to just shut up and listen.  Today, like many days, I had plans to work on a specific project — until an earlier project took longer, until I realized today was my only available time to get my hair cut, until I had to phone a potential client and discuss a complicated health problem, until I just felt too tired from being up since 4:30 AM to have the right mental focus for my project, etc.  But I didn’t fail.  I responded to each area God laid on my heart as he lived his life through me.  I had a good day that produced good satisfaction at the end.  God gently, but sovereignly, rebuked my agenda replacing it with his own.

This doesn’t work without an awareness of the presence of God.  While that comes easier in the solitude and focus of a Personal Retreat, in daily life it comes mainly by prayer.  Understand however, that the way we usually pray won’t work — you know, just asking for stuff.  The kind of prayer I talk about in FACE TO FACE:  Meeting God in the Quiet Places will, I believe, do the trick.  This is prayer characterized by (1) Listening more, (2) Praising more, (3) Petitioning less, and (4) Meditating more.  My mind is so busy and active I have to force myself to shut up and listen, to praise and to meditate without doing my usual “Christmas List” praying.  Then, as the old monk said, “When God finds space, he enters.”  I’m now walking with him, instead of asking him to walk with me.  He’s leading and I’m following.

In this I discovered the “one thing” — his presence, the mind of Christ, Christ in me, the hope of glory.  Instead of approaching a day with a list of tasks to be done, approach it focused on the “one thing” — living in communion with him who is life itself.

— Monte Kline