It’s amazing what a deadline does. Take Christmas for example. On December 25th, at least in these parts, folks wake up to Christmas day and they expect their gifts to be under the tree, stockings to be filled and Christmas dinner preparations to be well under way. As the Dr. Seuss’ Grinch so aptly points out, we can stop Christmas from coming, it comes just the same.
Part of the craziness of Advent – the season of waiting – is making our preparations. Because it will come, with or without us. Christmas day is the deadline. So we scurry to buy, wrap, bake and mail, in time for Christmas. This struck me between the eyes when I saw my friend Cammy’s Facebook post of herself live-streaming the 11:00pm Christmas eve service on her computer while she was getting her last minute wrapping done. Her comment:
“Having a wrapping party while watching the Floris UMC 11:00 service live streamed, after going to church and having dinner with all of the family in Winchester. I hope that next year I will get my act together and have something wrapped a little bit earlier, but this sure is a wonderful way to wrap gifts! Merry Christmas, everyone!
If it weren’t for the Christ child insisting on His day, I would certainly be putting off the celebration until I got around to getting everything finished, too. But there’s a deadline: Christmas day. That’s why I throw things into gear. The next day is too late; it’ll all be over.
Thank God for deadlines. Left to my own devices, I’d coast and glide and continue through life as if it were up to me to set the pace. God knows I need an endpoint, a target, a landing place, an arrival. THERE. DONE. Not to revel in my success, but to take a big inhale and stop to celebrate. Then, only then, to begin again.
As I catch my breath and beat myself up about my procrastination, vowing that next year will be different, I look around at the unwrappings of a season and the accomplishments of a year and realize, were it not for the deadline, none of it would be. Christ would never come. But He did and he has and, rumor has it, He’ll be back.
I have other deadlines looming. Thank GOODness!
Time is imaginary, right? Just like money. Not real. Just a concept. A suggestion.
If I have, say, a 3:00 meeting that is 20 minutes away and I leave at 2:50. I’m not late. Not until I am halfway there and the clock ticks 3:00 am I late.
If I have a project due tomorrow by noon that I haven’t started, I’m not late. Not until tomorrow comes and the deadline passes. At 12:01, I’m late. At 11:59, I still have time. Perhaps a miracle will happen and …
If I have, say, a book that I am trying to write. And there is no deadline. It’s just done when it’s done. I set the timing. I’m completely in charge. It can’t be late. That’s a good thing, right? I shouldn’t let a silly old ticking clock control me. Or a day-timer. Or a calendar.
Well, timing is imaginary, right? A human fabrication. Something we created so we could call meetings and assign projects and …
I don’t have a very good relationship with time. In fact, we’re enemies. I disregard it. Spend it at will on anything I wish. As if it grew on trees. As if it were endless.
God’s time is. Not mine. The time I am spending today belongs to both of us. He shared it with me. How could that be my enemy?
Head down. Dig in. There’s work to be done.
Most everyday I chastise myself for not finishing. In fact, I say that it is God’s great joke that I have a business called Fit2Finish and I never finish anything. What is it about “finishing” that impedes my progress?
People tell me to “set deadlines.” And when I do, I get stuff done, almost always by the deadline. I feel compelled to do so. I hold fast to the endpoint and I scurry to put as much together as I can, knowing that once I turn it in I can check the box and be done with it. Someone else can take it from there. I can move on to the next thing.
But for some reason finishing is different. Finishing looks larger. It is completing with optimum quality. There is an accountability and a finality to finishing. When I get to the point where there is no revision needed, it is finished. This is way more than a deadline.
“Just let me know when you’re finished,” is an open-ended proposition. How really do I know when I have finished? Couldn’t it always be better? Isn’t there always more to be done? Aren’t there improvements to be made? alternatives to test or try on and discard?
Perhaps this is why I have trouble finishing. Along the way, the middle of the project lengthens and the finish line doesn’t seem to get any closer. In fact the finish line seems to be moving away as fast as I approach it. It reminds me of the “world record line” gamely drawn across our screens as our Olympic swimmers chased after it this summer. It added tension as we watched our heroes drive toward the wall as fast as they could, while the little gray line laughed and pulled away.
Sometimes it felt like if only they saw that line taunting them they would swim a bit faster to achieve glory in the record books. But I know it isn’t so. If they looked up at the glory it would have ruined their streamline and slowed their finish. No, the only hope they had for glory was to put their heads down, drive for the wall, and swim as hard as their training had prepared them to swim. Toward the finish line. A wall they could see and could touch that would register their finishing time.
Who wants to end at a DEADline, right? I’m racing toward the Finish Line.
Of course, in soccer, the touch line is not just at the end of the field. It’s the line that runs the length of the field on both sides. It touches us, each time we take the field, and each time we come off. Maybe just playing hard finishes us.