A friend and I walked out of the classroom building into the sunny spring afternoon. Classes were over for the day and the vacant hours ahead sparkled with possibilities. How would I spend my time? Was it warm enough to don my swimsuit and get some sun? Maybe a walk on the beach would refresh my spirit.
As we made our way across campus, a new assignment penciled into our notebooks, my friend declared, “I’m going to the library to get started on that paper.” His pronouncement ripped me away from my daydreams and my mental list of the ways I was considering frittering away my rare free time. I hid my shock as I questioned silently, “Why start the paper when it isn’t even due yet?!” And then a novel (to me at least) idea started to take root in my mind: why NOT start and even finish an assignment ahead of time?!
Why not, indeed? I am embarrassed to admit that I had successfully negotiated my undergraduate college years and been admitted to graduate school before it even occurred to me that assignments could be done before they are due. Completed without the anxiety of a looming deadline. Huh. Who would have thought?
I suspect the world is separated into two groups: Those of us who procrastinate and everybody else. When I was younger I didn’t realize I was a procrastinator. I come from a long line of procrastinators. So I didn’t realize there was any other way. Until that day in graduate school.
I wish I could say that my friend’s example changed my life and cured me of my procrastination. But it didn’t. I gained insight into myself, which can be helpful, but I didn’t suddenly turn into someone who seizes the day.
There are lots of books written for people like me by non-procrastinators. Books that give helpful hints on how to accomplish more, procrastinate less, be more successful. And people like me buy those books because we have this sense that we are not quite right. We try to improve ourselves, to fix and motivate ourselves, to set resolutions we will keep, and turn over a new leaf. Somehow, our natural approach to life is just not good enough, for us or the publishers who keep publishing the next method or mindset that is going to make the difference once and for all. I, and people like me, need to be fixed.
In the last couple of years I’ve been forced to lean on God more and my own admittedly lackluster abilities less. As I have found God in the darkest parts of my experience, I’ve made an important discovery. God doesn’t love me less than someone who is more driven and can accomplish more before lunchtime than I will all week. He may have to nudge me hard at times, and perhaps kick me in the fanny occasionally. But his love, guidance, and promises to give me a hope and a future work for me and others like me the same way it works for my dynamic friends who are more organized, motivated, enthusiastic, and successfully married than I ever will be.
This is so important. And at the same time tough to embrace. This is God’s grace. If like me you are aware of your shortcomings, this can be so hard. So let me say it again. God loves me just the way I am and he will use me. My gifts come from him. There was no application I needed to fill out or prerequisites I needed to meet to qualify to be used by him.
God has not put me in a 12-step program for putter-offers in order to be good enough to do what he has asked. God has found ways to speak to me and move me in the midst of my darkest days and in spite of, and sometimes because of my procrastination.
A couple of years ago when the earth opened up and swallowed my security and my expectations of how my life should be, I found myself in a heap on the ground, crushed by the circumstances of my life. The only thing I could do was look up.
“Lord, light my path” is a familiar prayer.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)
You know, I don’t see anywhere in that verse where God says he will light the path of the motivated. He doesn’t stipulate that he will make the rough places smooth only for energetic go-getters. Nowhere does he say he will forsake those of us who sometimes struggle to get out of bed and get moving. The only qualification needed for godly illumination, according to Isaiah, is that we be blind.
In dark dreary days I asked God what he wanted from me. I began to tell stories to friends I had previously kept hidden. Subtly, a thought, an idea began to take form in my mind. A friend encouraged me. The dreams I once had were reawakened. Those hard things I experienced were not shameful secrets but my stories. My stories should be told and God can use them.
Which is how I found myself in front of my computer writing. This girl has a purpose. “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
But what happens when you give a procrastinator a purpose? It’s a little bit like when you give a Mouse a Cookie or a Moose a Muffin.
When God gave this procrastinator a purpose, I began to pray. I admit my prayers may have sounded something like, “Me?! Are you sure?” And then I began to write. When I needed to look up some Bible verses, I found Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com. It is a great resource where I can search for specific verses, phrases, and look at different translations of the Bible.
When I’m writing and get stuck I use various techniques to get my creative juices flowing again. One is to just write what’s on my mind and not worry about how it reads until later. Another thing I do is stop trying so hard and distract myself. This technique may look a little bit like a combination of procrastination and surfing the Internet. The writing process is a bit like sausage making. You really don’t want to see what happens on the way to the final product.
One day when I was surfing, I mean trying to get the writing flowing again, I discovered Bible Gateway offers devotions by email. I subscribed to a few including devotions written by authors at Proverbs 31 Ministries.
Which led me to their website, www.proverbs31.org. I discovered many treasures and resources there including conferences for speakers and writers. So I signed up for one of those conferences and learned how to write a book proposal.
Did you catch how that happened? God didn’t discipline me and crack a whip and force me to conform to his preordained formula for how things should be done. He spoke to me where I was…surfing the Internet. These happy “accidents,” as I pursue my purpose, show me that I am on the right track. I am supposed to write my story and tell what God has done.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” (Psalm 139:13-15)
Not only does God not find me lacking, he made me this way. And he made you the way you are. This takes us back to Paul’s analogy of the church being like a body. We can’t all be the head. God doesn’t want us to be a bunch of Stepford Wives, conforming and lacking individuality.
I’ve spent a lot of my life focusing on my character flaws; I wanted to be different, to be like someone else. The things I can’t do taking precedence over what I can do. And I’m in good company here. Do you remember when God told Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go? “But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13) Moses wasn’t exactly brimming with excitement at being called by God. But we know about Moses because he did what God asked him to do. And more importantly, God did what he promised Moses.
So I, a procrastinator, have a God who has promised to light my way and equip me to write my stories. When I think about it, people like me could actually teach Type A overachievers a spiritual truth or two. I’ll write a blog about that someday. Tomorrow maybe. Or the day after.