Thursday, November 17, 2016

Procrastination – and Fear

Like many writers, I have a special gift for procrastination. It might be news to non-writers, but the act of writing professionally is hard work. Whenever I hear someone declare enthusiastically, “Oh, I just love to write!” I can’t help but think, “Yeah, you probably don’t write for a living.”

One writer aptly described writing in these words: “All you have to do is sit down at your computer, put your fingers on the keyboard, and stare at the screen until beads of blood appear on your forehead.” So can you blame writers for being prone to procrastinating, doing just about anything to avoid or delay the intense concentration that eventually will give birth to words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, articles and books?

Of course, procrastination is hardly exclusive to writers. In one way or another, we’ve all at times nodded our heads at the admonition (or excuse), “Why do today what you can easily put off until tomorrow?”

It might be a time-intensive task like cleaning the garage, doing a household repair, or sorting through junk accumulated in the attic. It could be a project at work that will demand undivided attention once you start. Or perhaps there’s an unpleasant interaction you must have with a family member or friend. You able to think of all kinds of things to do to escape doing the difficult or undesirable.

But sometimes there’s another factor behind our procrastinations: Fear. It might be fear of going to the doctor to address a health problem, suspecting it’s more than something a prescription or two can resolve. Or the fear of going to the dentist to have that achy tooth checked out, having an idea it might require a drill – or even an extraction – to correct.

There also might be fear of failure, or fear of starting something you can’t finish. I’ve spent my entire career writing non-fiction, first newspaper articles, then pieces for magazines and later, books. But I’ve always wondered about writing fiction. I have a couple of good ideas for novels, but feeling apprehensive about whether I’m creative or imaginative enough to write about make-believe people in not-real settings doing things I conjure in my mind, I’ve yet to commit myself to the pursuit of attempting to become a novelist.

Maybe that day will come, but my point is that if fear’s the basis for our procrastinating, one antidote would be to turn to the One who keeps telling us, “Fear not.” That’s what the angel told Mary in declaring in essence, “Guess what? You’re a virgin, you’ve never been with a man, but you’re going to become pregnant by divine conception. And even better, the baby you’ll carry and deliver will be the Son of God.” Do you think Mary, confronted with that startling revelation, might have preferred to indulge in a bit of procrastination if given the choice?

The good news for all seasoned procrastinators is the God of the universe constantly reminds us not to let fear get in the way of doing what we know we should do, whether it’s something as tame as deciding whether to expand our horizons professionally or as serious as dealing with a very troubling personal matter.

Trusting in His love, we’re told, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

Through the prophet Isaiah, God assured, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Whatever we find necessary to do, He’s with us.

In striving to live out our faith in an increasingly faithless world, even “giving an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15), we’re admonished to not worry about how they will respond to what we say. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

So if you’re finding yourself in the procrastination spin cycle, reluctant to undertake whatever God is urging you to do, don’t let fear be the obstacle that keeps you from obeying Him – and experiencing the joy, and maybe relief that will result.

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