How often does it seem easier to wait for a more convenient time to do what you know you should be doing – than to actually do it? As a child, the Saturday chore I disliked the most, I would put off until late afternoon. What did I do instead? Anything but what I was supposed to do. And did that make me happy? No, it just delayed the inevitable, which hung over me all day like a little gray cloud, which is probably why I still remember it so clearly today.
As adults, we often postpone doing those things that the present moment calls for, waiting for a “more convenient time.” We may turn to some other activity, hoping the feeling that we really should make that call, balance that checkbook, or finish that job left undone will pass.
I’m learning that procrastination steals valuable moments that could be more productively employed. But it has no power to deprive me of the rewards of the moment if I follow the heedings of conscience, of knowing what I should do, and then doing it.
Acting on a right impulse can be likened to moving ahead in fog that may seem very solid and forbidding. But if we are to move forward, we can’t let the fog make us immobile prisoners in a vacuum of inactivity. We don’t need to see the whole path open. We need to take only the next step, then the next, and the next.
By accepting God’s presence in our lives, we can look to Him for support as we go forward. A legitimate demand of the moment, knocking at the door of consciousness, carries within it the capacity for fulfillment. Following God’s guidance, even in small ways, helps break the cycle of procrastination.
Of course, not everything can be done at the moment we think of it. We may need to set priorities. But there’s a difference between the laziness or willfulness that allows us to be pushed into a less-meaningful, but self-justified action, and the wisdom that sees the proper time for doing what’s needed.
A message in a hymn that helps me meet procrastination head-on reads: “Rouse ye, rest not, do the deeds/ That break the earthly dream” (Maria Louise Baum, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 296). I have shortened this vigorous demand to this reminder: “Do the deed that breaks the dream.” The dominion and satisfaction resulting from doing the task at hand, whether I want to or not, encourages me to take the orderly steps that keep the path of progress clear and direct.
Perhaps the procrastination that needs to be most forcefully addressed is that which resists the gentle nudgings to turn humbly and lovingly to God for His direction. Maybe there’s a call to pray, to open thought to the idea that whatever is required can in fact be successfully accomplished. Or it could be to reach out for the tender nurturing afforded each of us through recognizing God’s motherhood. For others it might be a greater willingness to lean on the security and guidance exemplified in God as Shepherd.
Mary Baker Eddy, who searched the Scriptures and discovered a healing method based on the life and teachings of Christ Jesus, wrote, “Tireless Being, patient of man’s procrastination, affords him fresh opportunities every hour...” (“Christian Healing,” p. 19). As we take advantage of these “fresh opportunities,” the days open up to a more orderly progression of new ideas and a greater readiness to put them to use.
When I finally learned, as a child, to tackle that chore I disliked doing – before I did any of my other chores – the little gray cloud that hung over my Saturdays vanished, and I felt free and happy.