I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been working with a “personal coach”. It’s so helpful. I bring up the topic I want to discuss – anything from plans for a new project I want to start, to brainstorming solutions to a problem. She helps me think through whatever the topic is, using reflective listening and good questions to help me sort through options. It brings clarity to processes that had otherwise stalled.
This last time, though, I got some clarity on something that made me cry.
I told her I wanted to talk about the five areas of life I want to focus on this year. They are big areas I want to improve, learn, and do well in this year. I saw it on a time management blog. At the beginning of every week, I sit down and go through each area and look at what I need to accomplish in each in the coming week. It makes for a pretty balanced to-do list and ensures that nothing important is getting dropped through the cracks.
What’s been bothering me about the process, though, is that I’m almost exclusively focused on only the next week. I’m not thinking very strategically about how the week’s work is fitting into a bigger picture of where I want to be, say, in two more years. I said I needed to talk about how to think more long-term about my goals.
The more we talked, though, the more she kept saying, “It seems like you know where you want to be in the next three or four years.” I’d shake my head and she’d say, “But you just told me – you want to have at least marketed (if not published) a novel. You want to be getting your Master’s Degree.” She kept going, listing goals in the different five areas that I’d already said.
Then she asked, “What is stopping you from putting these goals on paper right now and going after them?”
That’s when I started to cry. Because a torrent of fear washed over me and instantly I knew what was stopping me.
I’ve always said I’d rather die of a curable disease than to know I had an incurable one. I think it’s the same attitude people who avoid the doctor at all costs have. What if I find out if it’s incurable? I’d rather not know… I’d rather not know so much that I’d rather die of something curable instead of risking finding out its incurable.
The same attitude’s been creeping into my lack of planning. I’d rather not set a big, scary goal (like writing and marketing a novel) and know for sure I couldn’t meet it than just not set the goal and always be thinking, “If I’d tried – I could’ve written the next Harry Potter.” In short – I’ve been believing that it’s better to regret not having tried, than to regret having tried and failed.
Which totally makes me the servant in Jesus’ parable of the talents that takes the money entrusted to him, wraps it carefully in a handkerchief and buries it in the ground for fear of what he won’t be able to do with it. If you don’t remember the story – I’d suggest a reading in Matthew 25. Let’s just say, the end for that servant is not a good one.
So when my coach asked me, “Where does faith fit into all of this?” and with that parable swirling around in my mind, I was smacked with the truth that I’ve only been willing to attempt only what it appears I can accomplish on my own. Setting only small, short-term goals (like finishing off a week’s to-do list) instead of goals that leave something up to God’s intervention.
As if just to make sure I’m getting the message, all week I’ve been coming across verses like, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
Through small, self-achievable goals I like to pretend the power belongs to me. If I step out in a little bit of faith, leaving something up to God, then I have to admit I was powerless all along and the surpassing power is His
It’s scary, but I know I don’t want to be the servant who hears, “wicked and lazy” at the end of the day. So I’m stepping out, trying to make plans which depend on God’s intervention for their completion. Trying to root out the fear of inadequacy and replace it with faith.