Saturday, October 23, 2010

How Do You Count?

I am not a woman who is capable of finishing everything I attempt to start; nor do I finish things with perfection.  I make reading plans so I won't fall behind in class, and then fail to use them.  I plan ahead so that I won't be frantically finishing an assignment the same hour I have to go to class--and still end up printing and sprinting. Even this blog is something that I have attempted to bathe in self-discipline, only to fail.  Daily we are all asked to take on things that we are capable of doing -- many of them things that we could do well.  We get a lot of them done, but not all.

But is it failure?

I would like to submit the idea that we could all use a moment of self assessment; not on our rates of failure and success, but on our definitions and standards when it comes to failure and success.  Sometimes we really don't come through on something we need to have done.  Sometimes we mess up.  Sometimes we drop the ball.   Sometimes we encounter the unforeseen and we make the choice to put people before tasks.  Sometimes we have delusions of minute grander that suggest to us that we are capable of ignoring the constrictors of time and space--and social lives. Sometimes we make the wrong choice.  But sometimes we make the right choice, and for some reason, we want to think that it was wrong.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped to ask God his opinion before we kicked ourselves?  

I would like to submit to you that God is interested in how we love Him and each other--and that our to-do lists come second to those priorities if they are in conflict. Sometimes we love best by getting things done.  We all rely on each other, and if we regularly failed to get important things done, we'd have serious problems.  But, I doubt that it pleases God when we get down on ourselves for not being as self-diciplined and as accomplished as we think we ought to be. I think that the Kingdom definition of productivity is slightly different than our own, and that perhaps we could benefit from learning a new way to count.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Life of Quiet Desperation

It is already week two of the new quarter and I find myself feeling terribly behind in both homework and other sundry life-things.  Circumstances being what they are, last week was horribly busy for me, and did not really allow any time for school work to be done.  This is not a complaint, however, because I made thoughtful choices about several of the things that took my time, and felt that they were the more important ones.  Not one of those choices stand out to me at the moment as one I would go back and change. But, as the case often is, there are consequences for our choices, and the consequences I face at the moment is a flurry of activity as I try to make up lost ground before things get too far; before I resign myself to simply being behind and mildly disappointed with myself (as those two things are usually linked for me.)

As my evening class went on break tonight, I couldn't help but start to compile a mental list of all that needs doing.  The chapters that need to be read, the films that need to be seen (yes, this is actually homework) the assignments to be written, and so on. I was very tempted to tell myself that this is all so very stressful, and that I am in a stressful place.  I was tempted to tell myself that I am stressed, when in point of fact, I was not feeling "stressed out" as say so often.  Yes, I have plenty to do, and it may feel stressful very soon, but at that moment, I wasn't feeling "stressed out", merely mindful that there is much to be done. 

 I have a close friend who seems always to be in a state of being "stressed out" as she puts it.  There is a never ending barrage of things in her life that seem to attack her relentlessly.  She does have a lot going on, and I recognize that she has every right to be stressed out from time to time.  But I also can't help but sometimes feel that she chooses it.  She will identify situations that shouldn't be categorized as stressful by anyone, as things that bear down on her. I think perhaps that she feels the weight of decisions with so much gravity, that there is little room in her economy for a bad decision, or even a less-than-ideal one.  

Somehow tonight the thought of my to-do list, mixed in with the thought of my friend.  I actively chose not to take on a perception of stress in my life. 

This brought to mind a quote from Thoreau: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."  

And I have to admit that in a sense, theologically, Thoreau is right. There is always so much to be done.  There is always so much that we need. There is always so much that we cannot accomplish on our own, or for ourselves.  We lead lives of quiet desperation, because our efforts--and we should make an effort--is only buoyed by the Grace of God. I mean that quite literally. We have a choice, where we can recognize that we need that Grace, that we live by that Grace, and that we are sustained by that Grace. Or we can not.  Either way, we are living lives of quiet desperation, but I think we can make a distinction about how we look at it.  We can focus on the desperation and simply live there, which results  as Thoreau put it "What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." Or we can focus on the Grace that we are offered, and say "please" and "thank you".

I think this choice matters in lots of ways; two of which I can think of at this moment:  choosing Grace allows us to sleep better at night.  And, accepting Grace means we have some to give to others when they need it.   If we are living in a state of desperation, we have no grace to spare for anyone else, because we don't think we even have enough to get by on ourselves. 

Yeah, I have a lot to get done, and not too much time to do it in.  
By God's Grace, it will come out.