The Next Right Thing

Over the years I’ve used a phrase numerous times in all sorts of seasons, mental spaces, homemaking, motherhood, even on this blog — the phrase: do the next right thing.  This concept wasn’t learned overnight and it wasn’t learned easily.  It wasn’t something that came naturally to me — as disciplines of motherhood didn’t come naturally to me.

But, from the beginning, God was working in me to will and to work for His good pleasure. –Philippians 2.13. Day by day He has been working disciplines into my life and I share these things with you that you might experience the same: God working in you for His good pleasure. Or God affirming in you what you’re already doing, learning, accomplishing for His glory.

Journaling, daily chore lists, daily prayer and devotions, checklists, etc., etc., all came into practice for me after I’d been married a little while. Early on, c. 1978, my mother-in-law gave me (among many other books) a copy of Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund. I think, for the first time, I realized how much I did not know, how many things I didn’t pay attention to doing, or how many things for which I had no real plan. I don’t recall enough of the book to heartily recommend it today, but I do recommend establishing disciplines to live by.

Speaking of disciplines to live by, sometimes, “the next thing” isn’t the next right thing (even though it might seem like it). And often we jump to do the next thing in haste (because it’s on the list and because: it. is. the. next. thing.) when we ought stop to evaluate what the next right thing is.

Sometimes we get caught up in the snowball effect of doing next things —all day long, practically running through our day checking off all the things, all the busy things we do every day. And at the end of the day instead of being tired but fulfilled, we might feel as though we didn’t actually accomplish much (except a checked off list) and end the day feel tired and empty.  Maybe in that list mix a right thing was missed, a right thing was overlooked, a right thing was rejected.

As I’ve shared a number of times, there are a couple of things I began to do and have done every day for the last 40+ years or so. Every day, first thing, I make our bed, tidy our room and have some sort of quiet time/Bible study/journaling. Those aren’t checklist items but they set the tone of the day… they’re sort of foundational to being ready for the day, ready for the next thing: the next right thing.  Since I could have a tendency to be haphazard so these (and other) disciplines help keep me in line. Getting fully dressed for the day is another.

So, what’s a next right thing?  Sometimes a next right thing is a: Stop everything–stop and pray!  Or, stop and push a swing, see the sunset, listen to a trouble, a story, a heart. Or, stop everything: go take care of someone, go get someone, go make something for someone.  Sometimes the next right thing is a necessary brief interruption–sometimes it’s all day. Whatever the case, right things might be seen as intrusions to our disciplines —our order— unless and until we seek to yield to what God is doing.

We might have our next things done so that we can be ready for the next right things.  A daily order makes “time demands” easier to oblige. Next things are often task oriented only, whereas a next right thing is hopefully more grace oriented.

Does the next right thing take the place of the next thing?  Yes, often.

As mothers, one of the hardest things to evaluate/prioritize is time/list management with so many potential variables. We might fall into one camp or another: so ordered we cannot be spontaneous —or— so spontaneous we never have order. Disciplines are tricky. But necessary. And gracious.

Disciplines bring freedom… freedom to do what we ought instead of doing whatever we want.  This is where we can learn to do the next thing with the priority of the next right thing.  In Titus 2.3 speaks of aged women being teachers of good things with verses 4 and 5 amplifying the good things.

Doing the next right thing is… a good thing.  ♥ —ps

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