This article was originally published in Be Still Magazine.
I think I gave my mother a heart attack the night before my wedding. When I think back on it, I have to admit – it was a little crazy. I was the bride that should have been tucked into bed with sleep eluding me and a brain full of nerves and fairytale dreams of the next morning’s wedding day.
Instead, I was at Kinko’s. At 11 o’clock at night. Printing programs.
The next morning, as the groomsmen gathered together to fold the last-minute, freshly-printed programs, I sat down in a Saturday coffee shop. And wrote my vows. Words that had been circling in my head for months. But I waited until the last possible second to record them.
By the time that Valentine’s Day of 2004 was over, and Josh and I were finally off and celebrating the first awkward and sacred hours of being husband and wife, my family gathered around the kitchen table. My twin sister was getting married eight months later. And she signed a paper towel contract that my mom had written, promising that she would be prepared. That she would plan ahead appropriately. And that she would not give her mother a heart attack with her last minute preparations the same way that I did.
I’ve been thinking a lot about procrastination recently. Probably because this article was due on Tuesday. And Kristin graciously gave me an extension through the weekend. And here I sit, on another Saturday morning. Wrestling words that are already there. And have always been there.
I’ve just been too afraid to get them onto paper. Because somehow, deep down, I feared that sitting down to get them out would suddenly make them disappear.
What is it about procrastination? I prayed yesterday morning. Why am I having so much trouble writing about something that I’m so passionate about? I can talk about studying Scripture and the depth of God’s word all day long. I am a woman in the midst of a passionate love affair with the Word of God. And yet, when it came time to sit down and write something to actually encourage women to do it? I hesitated.
Because I didn’t know where to start.
Isn’t that how it always works? You have something that you know you need to do. A project that absolutely has to be tackled. But it’s just so big that you don’t know where to begin? So you distract yourself. With laundry. Or social media. Or getting back to that text you conveniently just remembered about. When Josh and I moved into our first house a year after we got married, I tried to pack. I really did. But I found myself sitting cross-legged on the kitchen counter reading the very same newspaper that was supposed to be used for wrapping up the dishes.
Just the other day, a girlfriend confessed on Facebook that she was literally procrastinating by watching TED talks on how the people who procrastinate are the most successful. Because when we really want to avoid something, it becomes an art form.
I teach women all over the nation how to study Scripture. And the one question I hear the most is where do I start? Because I’ve been in the habit of studying the way that I do for the last decade, I didn’t really know how to answer. You just start, I’d say. Just begin. Anywhere. He will honor it. But if my fear of writing this article applies to this scenario, then the knowledge of knowing where to start isn’t really the root of the matter. Or the heart of the procrastination. It’s the fear of God not actually being there when we step out to meet Him.
What if, when I sit down to learn to recognize God’s voice… He’s silent? What if He doesn’t speak to me the same way He does to her?
It’s a cycle, really. We don’t know where to start, so we put off starting. And take the easy way out. And make an excuse as to why it doesn’t really need to happen. And before you know it, you’ve missed the boat. But that’s ok because you’ve already talked yourself into the fact that the boat wasn’t going to be that great anyway.
But that boat that you missed? That could have been the one from which Jesus calmed the storm. Or Peter walked on the water. It could have been the one that took the disciples to the other side where they fed the five thousand. The one where miracles await.
While we stand on the sidelines, deciding whether or not to get onto that boat, we are also making short-cut decisions based on the ideologies of a generational mentality that’s been trained in a fast-food world. A world where, day by day, in-person, voice-to-voice communication is being slowly stripped away. A world where we no longer have to stand in line to tell our coffee order to someone standing behind the counter. Simply pull it up on your phone, walk into the store ten minutes later, and pick it up with a wordless smile and maybe a thank you.
Have we ever stopped to realize that the same thing is happening to our relationship with God? A God that is loud and vocal throughout Scripture. A God that speaks to His people as we talk with a friend. A God that wants us to know His voice… and we procrastinate, because we don’t know how to take the time to learn it. So we rely on our phones. And those five-minute devotionals. And someone else’s interpretation of God’s voice in a dangerous game of telephone pictionary. You know the game – where you read a phrase. And draw a picture of that phrase. And the next person describes the picture. And the person after them draws a picture of that description. And within a few short rounds, the original phrase is entirely misconstrued into something it never had to do with in the beginning.
And before you know it, you can’t remember the last conversation you had with God beyond a whispered thank you in the midst of Sunday morning collective worship.
This generation of Christians is procrastinating in knowing His voice. Because that “I don’t know where to start” feeling creates an uncomfortable tension. And, in avoiding that tension, we become too content in allowing others to know His voice for us while simultaneously sitting in quiet envy over the fact that they have learned to recognize His voice in their lives. And we have not.
Proverbs 13:4 is a slap-in-the-face-gut-check example of this:
The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.
Let’s take a minute to pick this verse apart, based solely on the Hebrew definitions of each word or phrase. (You can go to blueletterbible.org and search for Proverbs 13:4, then use the Interlinear / Concordance to follow along with me step for step. Or, if that’s Greek to you (no pun intended) just hang on for the ride.) First, I’m going to list out the definition of each word. Then, I will re-write the verse more richly, using those definitions.
Soul: (root word: to take breath, refresh oneself). The soul described here is the breathing substance of being, or the inner-being of man.
Sluggard: (root word: to be sluggish, slothful, to leave, to neglect). There is a cross-reference in the definition of this word that points to Judges 18:9 and the time that the Israelites made it through those 40 years in the wilderness. And they stood at the border of the Promised Land. Armed with the promises of God and His vows of protection and provision. And still, they refused to go in.
Desires: to desire, long for, lust after, wish for oneself. Literally, “to desire a desire”.
Diligent: to be sharp, decisive, to cut in, to dig. The word speaks of something decided, and is poetically used for gold (specifically, gold that is dug out).
Shall be made fat: to be satiated abundantly.
I bet you can already see the depth of rich truth that is forming here. To pull it all together, let’s re-write the verse together using the definitions above:
The breathing substance and longing-for-refreshment-soul of a slothful man – one who neglects and leaves and all but ignores God’s promises – is like the Israelites who stood outside of the Promised Land. Having followed God their entire lives. And when they came face-to-face with actually stepping out and believing Him. And claiming His promise for themselves. And walking forward in faith. They left. Walking away with nothing. Overwhelmed with fear. And refusing to go in. But the breathing substance and longing-for-refreshment-soul of the decisive – the ones who decide for themselves to go in. And trust His promise. And dig for the depth of wisdom and knowledge that He has promised in His Word. They will find gold. And their craving for Him will be satiated abundantly.
So, LORD, I pray for the woman reading these words right now. I pray that she would stop procrastinating in knowing Your voice. That she would learn the truth of Psalm 119:103: how sweet are Your words to her taste, sweeter than honey to her mouth. Through Your precepts, may she gain understanding. LORD, help her to stop the procrastination of Your sweetness. Give her a hunger to dig into Your word for herself. To learn Your voice for herself. And to have the decisiveness to dig for the golden nuggets of Your truth, knowing that You will meet her step for step. And satisfy her sweetness-craving abundantly.
Wow, just wow … and thank you
Beautiful encouraging truth. Thank you!
Thank you, Jane!
I truly, truly needed this today. I’ve had a few extra days at home because of a recent snow storm, and I thought I would spend so much extra time in the Word each morning, since I didn’t have to go to work, but I wasted it. I overslept, I spent a TON of time on social media, and watching movies, and being lazy.
I go in and out of my procrastinator nature.
Whenever I get things done on time, or early, it feels SO good, I feel accomplished, like I can do anything! Whenever I procrastinate, I feel stressed out and mad at myself for waiting until the last minute, and I also feel the annoyance from others who are looking to me to have the work done. “Did you get that done?” Can feel one of two ways when you hear it. You can feel awful because you aren’t done (or haven’t even started) or you can feel really confident in saying, “Yes!” with time to spare, and possibly time to make the work better.
In regards to procrastinating with God, that feels as though it is on a whole other level. I just feel so far away from God when I’m not disciplined to spend time with Him. When it’s a drive-through window type time together because I’ve slept in, or filled my day with non-essentials, it affects me all day. I have less patience, I’m crankier, etc. I don’t think it’s because my time with God is like a magic wand that makes me feel better, it’s deeper than that. When I’m really taking the time to sit and enjoy my time with Him in His Word, it changes me. And the more disciplined I am, the easier it becomes to make that time for Him, because I WANT it. I desire it!
So thank you for these encouraging words, and a reminder that today is a great day to start new. His mercies ARE new every morning!
RICH! Thank you!
Jane, once again, with grace, and sweet encouragement, your writing cuts right to the heart of the matter – and to God’s heart. God encouraged me so much while reading and absorbing this this morning. Thank you!
Completely agree with Mel ❤ thank you for this ❤
Thank you so much for sharing this. May the Lord bless you in your work for him.