Thursday, September 1, 2016

More Distractions

It's been a while since I sat down to write a blog post.  Based on the content of my last post, specifically how the minutia of ministry can distract me from the actual important part of ministry and my subsequent commitment to do better in that regard, you might imagine that I have categorized this blog as a part of the minutia--and I've been diligently ignoring it in favor of more worthy pursuits.

That's true to a certain extent.  I have on several occasions made the conscious choice to reach out or listen more and busy myself less.  The minutes evaporate, but I don't regret their loss because my promise to Bob is still fresh on my mind.  So it's good news, really.  I'm more or less successfully keeping the minutia of ministry at bay by showing clear preference to caring for and about people.  It has been refreshing, honestly.  Reinvigorating.  It has reminded me what drew me to ministry in the first place.

What I lamented before was the convergence of a thousand details conspiring to keep me from my primary purpose.  They required constant  attention on my part...or at least I thought they did.  They generated that all-too-common feeling that I was "spinning my wheels."  Always moving this way and that, like the tyranny of the urgent except that if I'm honest mostly it wasn't even urgent.  Now that I am aware of those and actively addressing them (by not addressing them much of the time), I have been introduced to a whole new kind of distraction, and it's actually the functional opposite of the minutia of ministry.  Instead of leading to hyper-motion, this distraction leads to complete paralysis.  I've decided to call this distraction the show stopper.  Don't hold me to that name.  It's lame and needs improvement.  In fact, 1000 points to the person who, in the comments below, comes up with a better name for it.

The show stopper does exactly what you'd think.  It's massive.  It gets right in the way of everything.  I can't do anything else until I deal with it, and I can't figure out how to get my mind around it either.  It's like standing at the bottom of a huge rock wall.  I know the only way to get to the top is to start climbing, but I get so bogged down thinking about what route to take and where the challenges will be and how I should get started that I just wind up standing there wondering how I'm going to do it.

Sometimes these are just really massive projects.  Like when we moved into our house two years ago.  There were so many different things that needed doing, as soon as I started thinking about which one to start with, I was overwhelmed.  There were actually days when I did absolutely nothing except walk around the house wondering what I should do.  That happens in ministry too.  Concert programs.  Beginning of year calendars and rosters.  Lengthy long-term projects.  These things are massive and complicated, and when they start to pile up, look out!  There are so many big things to do.  Show stopper.  I just get in a stare and wonder where to begin.

Sometimes, and this is really the worst, the show stoppers aren't even all that massive except in my own head.  My mind makes them bigger and more complicated than they were to begin with.  It's so frustrating, like my mind is out to get me.  Something that is admittedly a challenge can become impossible just because I load it down with layers of superfluous complexity.

This seems to run in direct opposition to human nature, which prefers to oversimplify things and boil them down to clear yes/no answers.  Why on earth would I make things more complicated when what I really want is straight-forward answers?  Maybe it's because in my heart I know the answer isn't simple...and the only other choice is to make it so complicated it can't be solved.

I'm just thinking out loud there.  I really don't have a good answer.  But I know that show stoppers are a thing.  I know if I'm not spinning my wheels I'm likely to stop my particular show.  And I know that neither one of those is good for answering my call to ministry.

There is hope!  Once I identified the minutia of ministry, I was able to address them.  Specifically, I made myself more aware of the tasks I was doing and what, as a result, I was leaving undone.  I simply made more intentional choices about how I approached my ministry.  While far from perfect, this has been helpful.

Now that I have identified show stoppers, I can address them as well.  Sometimes you just have to get started.  Start climbing.  Start working.  Later, when the job is done, I'll look back on the project and see all the things I could have done better.  Those are mistakes I won't repeat the next time!  But the important reality is this: I will be looking at those mistakes having completed the project and grown from it rather than standing in a stare wondering where to begin.

Put another way, the best way to address the distraction of show stoppers is simply to remember that the show must go on.  Make your best guess and start climbing.

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