I am so good at procrastinating. A friend of mine traveled to Cabo San Lucas several years ago and picked up a souvenir golf ball from one of the courses that he played. On one side it had the Nike swoosh with the words, “Just do it” at the top. Beneath the swoosh however, was written, “… Tomorrow.” That’s basically been my motto throughout life. During my senior year of high school, I had put off the last three weeks of Spanish homework until the very last night to turn it all in, which almost cost me a 4.0 in my Spanish classes and an award. Earlier that same year, when I decided I would apply for financial aid, the counselor simply stared at me in a slightly panicked amazement and said, “It’s due tomorrow!”
If you need something done, I’ll do it… but not in a timely manner. And as my fourth year of college comes to a close, I realize I’m not alone in the ability to procrastinate. As my last post discusses, I can get easily distracted, but a lot of the time, I choose to distract myself. It’s not like I open my computer and an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” opens itself and starts playing. I’m the one who clicks the file, selects the episode, and lets it play. No, it is not a good habit, but it’s probably the most consistent habit I have.
The side effects of this habit, however, are many. Generally speaking, by choosing to give in to my procrastinating nature, I neglect responsibilities. As we all may have experienced, we can get by with this, but only for a while. Paying rent only takes a matter of days before the landlord comes knocking on the door and paying the utilities bills takes only a couple days longer before you get a nice notice on your door saying the water and power will be shut off unless you pay up.
And what we might not usually consider is the spiritual ramifications for persistent procrastination. When God asks you to make a change in your character, He doesn’t mean to wait three weeks so you can enjoy yourself as you are for as long as you’d like. He speaks once and expects you to make the right move. I am really bad at this. There have been certain struggles in my life that I’ve had for over eight years and there has been little, if any, progress. And although sometimes I’m just not very awake, most of the time it’s a conscious decision.
During a Bible study in my freshman year of college, I remember someone saying that as we grow closer to the Lord, certain familiar temptations become more and more noticeable. Basically he was saying that we can’t be tricked. The deeper we allow Christ to dive into our hearts, the more aware of Satan’s schemes we become. Now we can choose to close the door on Christ, but from personal experience, I think it is a harder life to live when we give in to the temptations than to live without Christ. What I mean is, Christ gives us a life worth living for; trying things on our own only leaves us desperately alone.
How does this relate back to procrastination? Well, the small habits that we have are much harder to change than anything else. Francis Bacon said it best; “Great changes are easier than small ones.” I could change my career field quite easily, but changing how I operate on a day to day basis takes, as the Scriptures teach, an entire lifetime. In fact in this lifetime, in our human bodies, we will never reach that status of Christ-like perfection. We might have our moments, but there are severe flaws deeply imbedded within our human genetics that we can never uproot. Call it what you will, but God calls it ‘sin.’
I prayed on my way to class this morning. Today was the day of my last Spanish oral presentation and I was very excited to be almost done with it. All that was in my way was actually presenting it. And as I was praying for ice cold veins and an unshakeable, 3-minute focus, I started thinking of the various elements that were making me a little more nervous. The fact that I hadn’t studied my subject very much, the fact that I hadn’t practiced my presentation at all, and the fact that I was still learning some of the vocabulary were all instigating my nerves into overdrive. Before I even left the driveway, I knew what the real reason was: procrastination.
Though I don’t have a job, I do have responsibilities and obligations that come with the privilege of being in school. Reading the material, writing the papers, and studying for the tests are the three main responsibilities and if I fail to do all of them, I won’t set myself up for success. And although God doesn’t judge us by how well or not well we succeed, He does judge us for how good of stewards we are or aren’t of the gifts He gives us. Jesus gives a parable of three servants and some mina that’s given to them. What the first two servants illustrate is the ideal servant, the one who uses what he or she has been given to the best of their abilities for the sake of God’s glory, God’s profit. Sometimes, sadly, I find myself drifting dangerously close to the third servant, the one who hid his mina and did absolutely nothing with it.
When Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians, he described love as something to be labored over and worked with. His exhortation in 4:11-12 is deeply convicting; “work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” There have been several things I’ve been meaning to work on for months (a book, studying for my LSAT test, getting a wage-paying job), but haven’t because, mostly, I’d rather be lazy and watch TV or browse Facebook. I would put off whatever responsibility it is that I need to take care of until the next day or several days later, but what I don’t realize is what the book of James actually talks about. “You do not know what tomorrow will bring,” (4:14).
Instead of taking advantage of the time that I know I have, which is today, I depend on time that I assume I have, tomorrow. But James brings to light a valuable truth: we don’t know if we even have a ‘tomorrow.’ Why should we subvert our Godly characters, the good crops of our hearts, for short-lived moments of procrastinated distraction? Godly love, as Paul describes it, is a laborious thing. It is an action in response to the faith we hold and proclaim. As James writes, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” (2:17).
Conforming ourselves to the ways of Christ is impossible…without Christ. Paul knew this and it’s why he told the Thessalonians to “encourage one another and build one another up” and to “pray without ceasing” because by so doing, their faith in Jesus would be strengthened, so too would their Godly characters be built and established. It is a daily fight to live for the glory of God and throughout most of the time, it doesn’t feel like any ground is really being made. But, as Jesus might say, it’s like watching a seed sprout out and grow: it may seem like nothing’s happening, but gradually, ever so slightly, His life is growing within our hearts. And just like taking care of a plant, we must let His seed within our souls be watered and cultivated so that it grows as best as it can. This demands work. But then again, love isn’t something you feel; it’s an action you make.