Thursday, March 13, 2008

Procrastination

A friend from high school (thanks, Ruth) introduced me to this rhyme, which was her family's unofficial motto:

Procrastination is my sin.
It brings me naught, but sorrow.
I know I ought to quit it;
Perhaps I will tomorrow.

I've been thinking about that rhyme lately as I have found myself delaying certain tasks. I always find something else that "needs" to be done "first". I hate this behavior in myself, but I do know why I do it. The deep reason is actually kind of vain and embarrassing.

Paul Scott Wilson best summarizes my reasoning in relation to sermon writing, but it can apply to anything you know you need to do and put off: "As long as the page is still clean and the sermon is not written, it is a potentially perfect sermon. Most sermons begin in the preacher's mind as potentially perfect. Even the desire for perfection in service of God is a sin, however." (Wilson, The Four Pages of the Sermon, p. 34)

I do want everything I do to be good- so I postpone it because if I have not yet started the task, I cannot have messed anything up yet. However, Wilson points out even that desire for perfection in my own work is a sin.

I know that everything I do is already going to be far from perfect and yet I look at some tasks as though my salvation depends on them, though I know that it doesn't. I forget the freedom of a Christian- the knowledge that Christ's life, death and resurrection makes me right with God with a power I cannot achieve or produce on my own. Thus my own actions in anything- sermon-writing, family time, exercise, etc.- flow from the gifts God has given me and my appreciation for God's grace.

Nothing I do can be perfect, even in my head, but I can give everything my best effort and rely on the power of Holy Spirit to strengthen me and my efforts to bring glory to God (who does all things perfectly).

So what is it that you put off because you want to "do it right" if you're going to do it all? Wouldn't even a little effort toward that goal (closet-cleaning, volunteering, piano practice, whatever) make you feel better than no effort at all? Seize the grace of this day and give a little bit of your gifts from God (time, talent, etc.) toward something you've been putting off for a while.

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