Day Late, a Dollar Short
Since entering college, and even now into graduate school, I've made it my goal in life to always be ten or fifteen minutes early to whatever activity I was expected to attend. Whether it was for class, a meal, or even meeting up with friends, there was rarely an instance in which I was not the one flipping the light-switches on in the classroom, sitting hungry at a table in the dining hall, or nursing a lukewarm cup of coffee as I waited for my less punctual pal to walk through the door.
I began to notice my preoccupation with being prompt when I found myself waiting for others who happened to be late. This was emphasized particularly when my (now) wife and I began living in the same city. Activities like watching a movie at a theater, going to a concert, or even attending church on Sunday morning lost any sense of enjoyment or meaning because her consistent lateness was almost guaranteed.
"How dare she be late," I thought to myself as I waited for my companion to arrive or finish getting ready. Checking the clock on my phone with every passing minute, I watched every grain of her integrity fall to the bottom of the hourglass. "Do you have any idea how your lateness will affect me?"
Upon her delayed arrival, I employed every dialect of passive-aggressive body language I knew to ensure the guilty party was aware of her mistake. One-word responses, refusal to make eye-contact, the subtle shrugs and less subtle exhalations from my nostrils. Though my tardy friend was certainly not fluent in the syntax of "indirect" confrontation, she would receive a brief, but rigorous, grammar lesson before the end of our interactions.
I have yet to determine why being early has become the staunch inclination of my personality, but if I had to provide a theory, I would argue it is because I hate being surprised.
When you purposely set yourself up to be early to every activity in life, people never seem to question your preparedness. As the masses slowly file into the classroom or the office, there you are, pen and paper in hand, or casually scrolling through your Facebook. "Nothing could ever be wrong in his life," you think theythink about you, "Who else would show up 12 minutes early but someone who had their life figured out? Who else could be so nonchalant with three papers, two book reviews, and a reading summary due?"
When people never question your preparedness, they never seem to doubt whether or not you have your life under control. There is always a certain carefree composure given off as you watch others struggle to meet deadlines, lament their lack of time or their abundance of busyness, and generally stress-out about their life circumstances.
When it looks like you have your life under control, it seems as though there is little that can surprise you or throw you off course. With the steering wheel firmly gripped at ten-and-two, there is nothing you cannot handle. There is no unfortunate accident, financial emergency, or unseen obstacle you are unable to weather, pay for, or traverse. The presence of control equates to the preservation of comfort, a prevailing sense of security, and maybe most important, the opportunity to save face when things really aredifficult.
This sort of commitment to appearances is really a guise to give the impression that I have everything under control, when in reality, that could not be further from the truth. While it may seem like I accidentally set my watch 10 minutes fast and never bothered to fix it, this obsession with constructing a façade of order and autonomy has really become a defense mechanism against appearing inept or inferior when I compare myself to others. It is the appearance of control over my circumstances that becomes my security blanket, a delusional false-hope in my own actions and effort.
Attempting to live our lives by grasping at control over our decisions and circumstances is like setting out on a transatlantic voyage aboard a piece of driftwood. Though she may seem sound after having floated hundreds or even thousands of miles on the open ocean, your driftwood does not come equipped with engine, sails, or even a rudder. There are no oars, there is no GPS guidance system, and there are no living quarters for you or your first-mate.
Defying all logic and common-sense, you set-off on your own. Denting a plastic bottle of Welch's grape juice upon the stern of your schooner, (because champagne wasn't in your price-range), you commemorate your watercraft on its maiden voyage with a name that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the ship: the S.S. Hopeless.
Joshua at the Helm
I was reading the Book of Joshua recently and was immediately drawn to the person of Joshua prior to him leading the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua had followed in the footsteps of Moses since the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt. He had personally witnessed the life, leadership, and ministry of the man who was called the friend of Yahweh, the prophet of the Almighty. How could Joshua possibly fill the sandals of his predecessor? How could Joshua lead this nation when Moses, the one "whom the LORD knew face to face" (Exodus 33:11), had had so many issues with them? The responsibility of leading the nation out of exile into a military campaign to claim the land God had promised to their forefathers required more than being ten minutes early.
Joshua needed the strength, wisdom, and presence of Yahweh to comfort him and inspire confidence in the task that God was assigning to him. Joshua understood that without God, there was no possibility of success, let alone prosperity and flourishing. Is there any question why the first word of assurance God gives to Joshua has to do with the provision of His presence in perfect faithfulness? (Joshua 1:5) We need that hope. We need to know that the plans God has for us will not fail.
Joshua needed the knowledge that regardless of what life circumstance he was in, God would be with him. It was his turn to take the position of leadership that God has assigned to him, and although there were certainly fears and even doubts concerning his calling, God's reminder (which occurs three times in this chargealone) to "be strong and courageous" was His attempt to refocus the eyes of Joshua on Yahweh when things became difficult. When Joshua felt that human desire grasping for control, God reminded him, "The LORD your God is with you wherever you go." When Joshua felt like the calling was too great, or that he was unfit for such a task God reminded him, "Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you" (Joshua 1:5).
There will always be new challenges and opportunities to do something we don't feel prepared to do. Whether it is graduating from college, getting married, starting a new job, moving to a new city, leaving a relationship, or getting your own place, there will inevitably be a time when you do not feel like you are prepared to undertake what God has brought to you. It is unlikely that we will feel confident in our new pursuits, but we cannot let this fear prevent us from stepping out in faith to embrace the roles and responsibilities God has for us. When callings or responsibilities seem too overwhelming or even impossible, embrace the reality that God is with you and in His presence we can have confidence in His plans.