My ability to procrastinate astounds me. It’s one of those skills you think should have a place on your résumé but know no future employer will appreciate. Along with your ability to fill every empty space in the trunk and pull together a killer progressive dinner.
What most employers don’t realize is how surprisingly productive procrastination can be. During the time I spend avoiding one larger, looming task, I am bound to complete at least half a dozen menial tasks I never would have otherwise finished.
Take yesterday for example – my two most important tasks for the day were to pack for today’s camping trip and to write at least 300 words.
The former was postponed until eleven o’clock at night, the latter is only now taking place at 8:30 the next morning in the car. The reason for the delay is the sundry household tasks I had been putting off for days if not weeks that I suddenly had to get done.
I couldn’t let the leftover ham bone go to waste when it had been sitting all week waiting for my first batch of stock. When I opened the refrigerator door to retrieve the bone, what remained of a two pound block of cheese caught my eye. I’d bought the cheese as a campfire treat and what was left needed to be shredded and frozen before it went bad.
To make room for a new tray of cheese in the freezer, the cheese I’d frozen the night before would need to be bagged and vacuum sealed. Which led me to vacuum seal the chicken stock and Amish friendship bread I’d frozen months earlier.
Meanwhile, the cabinet that had been waiting weeks to hang on the wall looked on imploringly in its barren state. I called a friend to help secure it, which meant I should also finish spray painting the canisters intended for display. It would be nice to have everything in order when guests arrived two days later.
You see what I mean – so much productivity with simply the effort to delay two inevitable tasks, beginning simply with a leftover ham bone.
This phenomenon occurs even when I’m excited about the larger undertaking. After all, why would I dread the writing that sets me free to soar?
Somehow the task in the distance seems overwhelmingly large despite how miniscule or enticing it may be. I’ve even tried on multiple occasions breaking down goals into smaller, more easily achievable steps to take one at a time. Yet I remain in dread.
I carry around a dense, hazy guilt I fight to shake off. It clings like the hot, southern summer air. I’m ashamed of my avoidance, uncertain of explanation. Perhaps I fear failure or inadequacy. Or perhaps worse yet, what if greatness emerges and responsibility is born?
I’m overwhelmed at the thought of the perfectionist Task Master lurking within, knowing she awaits with whip in hand. I spend more time dreading the undertaking than I would have simply tackling it, like ripping a bandaid off quickly to avoid pulling the hairs too long.
I approach relationship with God similarly. Fearing He will not show, I avoid Him altogether. Better I sidestep than He reject. I have reason for such beliefs.
How does one relate to the One unseen, unheard, untouched, when the world around is filled with sights and sounds, hands and feet? He seems to come only in momentary glimpses and will not be captured or tamed. So I start flight on my own and let Him appear when He will.
I fill the days with tasks, entertainment, pleasure, and plans. I leave it to Him to enter in, as though He is the One knocking, not I. Yet this does not reconcile with His word that if I seek, I will find; if I knock, the door will be opened.
How is my seeking insufficient, my knocking not enough? I am unable to conjure Him in the everyday and mundane. I long to woo Him, though He says He is the One courting. Why does He choose others if I’m His beloved?
I dread life without Love in its midst, so I backwardly ensure He will not be missed, much like a spurned lover never given the chance to cause pain. By giving Him no opportunity to turn away, I ensure the game will go on.
I fear what will happen if He never shows His face, or perhaps the fear is He may finally decide to reveal.
I remember the Israelites and take pause. After God spoke audibly and showed His glory to the wandering nation, the people begged Him to no longer speak to them for fear they would die.
They beseech Moses to come between them and the Almighty, as I beseech ambition and busyness and shame.
I don’t want to surrender to One who claims to love so shamelessly that He overtakes all other affections. I have many loves I’m unwilling to concede and suspect it’s life outside my control I dread most.
Uncertain of what God will ask of me or make of me, I prostrate myself and slink quietly away, back to a world of ham bones and cabinets and cheese. What wonder could be I’ll never know so long as I remain here.
 Deut. 5:23-27, 18:16. Philip Yancey explores this idea in Disappointment with God, pg. 74.
Talk about procrastinating – I wrote most of this piece back in September and just now finalized it!