Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Excuse Number Eight

As a real master of procrastination, I know the mantra, "I'll get to it later."  A couple of days ago, I sat down at my desk and looked at my "I'll get to it later" stack.  It was not a pretty moment.  Everything in me wanted just to shove it aside.  After all, I could get to it later. 

I bet I'm not alone.  Most everyone will occasionally delay tasks or the formation of habits that are difficult for the moment.  "I'll eat better tomorrow."  "Next week, I'll get the laundry caught up." "This semester, I will get all my reading ahead of time."  "I'll start tomorrow to build that important habit into my life."

An very unscientific survey of a random group of people turned up these tasks as highly subject to procrastination:  paying bills, sleeping, doing the laundry, cleaning the bedroom (this was echoed several times by teens), scrubbing the toilet, finishing writing projects, grocery shopping.  We'll get to all of this later when we have time, even though "later" doesn't come until the pressure gets so great that something has to be done about it.

So here we have Excuse Number Eight for skipping out on worship services: "I'll get there later when I have time."

The act of forming one's soul, learning about the nature of God, practicing the art of loving God and neighbor, exploring the nature of forgiveness and grace, intentionally entering the Holy Mystery, wrestling with our doubts, all in some sort of worship setting that may bring some discomfort . . . All this will happen later when we have time. 

Here is the problem:  we don't have time to form good and holy habits unless we simply start doing it.  We have to start, not just wish we had started or think about starting. We will never have time otherwise.

Time seems to be the most scarce commodity around these days.  The pressure is on.  We can't fit it all in. When I have time I'll write those letters, make those phone calls, pay those bills, hug my children, weed the garden . . . and make peace with God. 

But right now--?  Yes, right now, what? What will I do with the 24 hours a day given to me?  Will I be a good steward of those hours and build good habits that will last a lifetime and generations beyond?  Will I recognize that time spent in worship is not lost time, but promotes a way of being and seeing that helps me transcend pressures and make better decisions?

Here's what happens to me when I use the "I'll get to it later when I have time" excuse for important things. Panic, despair, living from crisis to crisis, no practiced paths of discipline and self-control. When difficult circumstances hit, I scream to God for immediate rescue.  And God had better have time for me, even though I've not bothered to give time to prepare my soul to receive that grace and hope in the midst of my darkness.

I spent hours that day working my way through that "when I have time" stack, piece of paper by piece of paper.  Financial issues I didn't want to face.  Stuff that needed to be tossed or filed. Lost information that I had laboriously replaced. Had I called upon the habit of dealing with these things immediately instead of letting them build up, the total time spent would have been far, far less.  "I'll get to it when I have time" ended up costing me a lot of time.

"When I have time" to get to worship means we'll never get there.  The habit of putting it off takes on a life of its own.  It becomes a given in our lives.  And it will end up costing everything.  


Angie Hammond said...

Ok, I'm guilty of using the I'll get to it later for many things. Fortunately attending church is not one of them. But how do you take the deliberate act of worship and fellowship and then go one step farther and apply it to your whole life? I mean taking care of your soul is great but if that is all that happens, then where is the benefit for the rest of you?

How does a person take the worship experience and use it to build good habits and a healthier life style?

I have not come anywhere close to taking the same time for myself that I'm willing to give to God or anyone else for that matter.

I'm also guilty of having so much pressure that it at times is unbearable. All of course due to my own mind creating the worries and doubts real or made up in my mind.

So reason number eight hits home with me but for a different reason. I have time for God but not for his creation that he loves: Me.

I keep saying I'll get to that later and I never get around to loving myself enough to do the things I should to take care of me. Never have the time.

Could it be that reason eight also means taking the time to love myself and taking time to care for myself because that is what God is. Love?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Angie about the need to make up for the lost time you never spend on yourself. As you strengthen yourself, with the help of God, wherever you may be at the moment, you enhance your abilities to resist the "I'll save it for later," thing. Then, the more you do that, the better you feel about life...and you want even more of it...and you discover that you can find it at church. And since you'll actually want to be there, procrastination about going to it just goes out the window. Until the process starts all over again. And it will if you don't procrastinate over the process.

I know about "lost" time. I had a mental illness that took me away from myself, my world and everybody in it. It was an involuntary procrastination, of sorts, one that kept me far, far away from doing the things, like going to church, that I would have done if my mind had been safe and sound and my heart had been able to keep up with its own needs.

I needed to have things I could do, in the short hand, in the long hand, and whatever things I could decipher to do with my limited life, I did them THEN. I didn't wait, for I never knew whether tomorrow would come or what it would be like. I go to church NOW, in whatever way I can. I have real life choices, now, and real life time, and I don't want to lose any more of them. Not to mental illness and not to the procrastination that often comes with ordinary ways of looking at extraordinary things---like worship services.