I swirled my lukewarm coffee in its glass, glancing out the two-story window into the neighborhood below. Was it raining? It certainly didn’t look like the kind of weather I had grown accustomed to in Southern California. Even if it wasn’t raining, it was fogging. Close enough.
I plopped unceremoniously into my desk chair and began clicking a pen without rhythm or reason. I had about a million things I could do, I should do, but for some reason it felt like such a hassle.
Being a list-motivated person means those pesky big ticket items on my to-do list often get, well, ignored seems as good a word as any. I’ve made it no secret that I’m [trying to] write a book. I have the best intentions and delusions. But when it comes time to write, the gears grind to a halt for a plethora of reasons. But the biggest one, the one I’m going to focus on right now, is that it’s not something I can ever neatly cross off my list. It’s never done. I can’t make a checkbox for it, spend two hours writing, and then fill the box with blue highlighter, as is my custom. It doesn’t work that way. And it’s insanely frustrating.
Like many tasks we will encounter in life, writing a book is a process. So is getting in shape again after college (thanks metabolism). And eating healthy. And working your way up the ranks in your company. Or bringing your math grade up. Or making friends. Life is full of processes—those reoccurring items and goals that appear again and again in our planners, notes, and calendars. At some stages they are our constant companions even more than our friends and family.
And I hate it. But rather than make friends with these giant, seemingly-insurmountable projects, I dread and avoid them. Well, usually.
As I looked out the window at the dreary day below, I decided it wasn’t really rain. After all, I’m from Ohio, I’ve run in far worse than a little foggy mist. On a whim, I laced up my running shoes. I had decided that this year I would be more consistent in working out and taking care of my body. So, I ran. And I ran far. And when I was done, I felt discouraged. My miles weren’t fast; I had to stop and walk a couple of times. It seemed, like much in life, my fitness goals would never be realized. And as a result, I didn’t go running the next day. My training shoes lay unused, untied. What was the point?
I don’t know when it happened. I suppose I finally stopped to think logically with my God-given mind long enough to realize that my methods in reaching my goals, any of my goals, were well…impatient. I didn’t want to have to do the work day after day. I wanted to be able to work out, write, whatever, like maybe one or two times and just have it be done.
I wanted to “arrive” with minimal effort.
It was not only lazy, but it was discouraging when it didn’t happen. And discouragement often leads to a lack of grace for oneself and an attitude that echoes “What’s the point? You’ll never be any good” over and over.
But instead of fighting it, I’m learning how to be patient with the process. Every process. Instead of being upset with myself for not running faster, I need to celebrate the fact that I ran at all. It’s more than I did last week! Every day is an opportunity. I can choose to show up in my own life, to plug away at what I believe God has called me to, and watch as He develops my perseverance and patience…or I can quit out of discouragement.
No one starts at the top. No one starts with their book already written. In fact, JK Rowling took 7 years to write her first Harry Potter book (a fact I often find solace in). No one starts with the results perfect. That’s the outcome or working on something repeatedly, again and again, day after maddening day.
And until I embrace life’s processes as a friend, realizing that they often require patience and grace…then my life will always be riddled with withdrawals, forfeits, and inconsistencies.
God uses these processes to develop us, to teach us how to depend on Him, to look to Him for direction and provision. And if I withdraw, then I withdraw from all that God is trying to teach me about discipline, hope, and perseverance.
At times, I think we get overwhelmed with the big picture. We see the massive project, the ever-elusive goal, and we begin to think of all the hours, all the work, the months, maybe even years it will take to get us to that point. But there’s a reason that God gave us days. For all my planning and forethought, today is all I have. So instead of dreading working out again tomorrow, I can concentrate on today. I can choose to go for a run. I can choose to sit at my desk and write for a few hours. When tomorrow comes, I can do the same thing.
God gave us bite-sized portions because He knew we would choke ourselves out if He gave us anything more. Focus on today. It is ALL you have. You are guaranteed nothing else, so live today well.
Show up today. Do the hard work. And then when, and if, tomorrow comes, you’ll remember your victories from yesterday and you’ll be encouraged to choose again.
Even if you take a few days off or slip up, remember, life requires grace. If you fall into hyper-criticism, you’ll probably never proceed out of this season; you’ll never progress in the process because you’ll be paralyzed by perfection…like me. What if I get it wrong? What if I put in all this work and it’s no good? Might as well not even bother since I didn’t do it yesterday…The methods of talking yourself out of living your own life are endless.
But instead of expecting it to be perfect the first time, what if I learned how to have grace and patience for myself within this process?
What if I stopped shying away from my goals because I’m afraid I won’t reach them? If I take myself out of the process because it feels too long and hard, because my work isn’t perfect enough…then I was right…I’ll never reach the finish line.
Do what God has called you to do. Have grace for yourself in the process, because He does. When you begin to realize that it IS a process…you can relax a bit. Olympians aren’t the best because they were born the best. They train an insane amount. You don’t have to run a 7 minute mile the first time you go out. Instead, free yourself to celebrate the little wins and milestones…like you didn’t eat a pan of brownies before running, or you went running at all.
Life is built on little decisions. Life is built by what you spend your time doing. Invest where it counts, day after day, and you will one day look back, totally surprised at what you’ve accomplished…all because you had patience in the process.