Monday, October 21, 2019

What If ‘Tomorrow’ Never Comes?

Most of us are amateurs at the majority of things we do. We try our best, but we’re not experts. But if there’s one thing many of us are pros at, it’s pro-crastinating. (Have you ever met an amateur-crastinator?)

Tasks we dislike quite easily are delayed for another time. “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow,” Aaron Burr is reputed to have said. Even though the one-time Vice President to President Thomas Jefferson apparently wasn’t thinking that when he chose to engage Alexander Hamilton in a duel, which resulted in the latter’s demise. 

We might not have his dueling spirit, but can relate to his sentiments. Sometimes even things we enjoy are postponed for another day. Practically all writers have perfected the art of procrastination. Writing is such a personal act, putting intimate thoughts into words and sentences and then onto a page – paper or online – and then submitting them for readers’ consideration. So, there’s a temptation to delay until “the right moment.” But I’ve learned that as with any worthwhile challenge, ultimately you must just suck it up and get to work.

Where procrastination can be most damaging is in relationships. Harry Chapin sang about this in his classic tune, “Cat’s in the Cradle.” If you don’t remember, it’s about a father who promised to spend time with his young son, but always found more pressing things to do. When he finally reached the point in life when he had the time, the now-grown son had his own slew of commitments. The best he could do was echo his father’s words, “But we’ll get together then, Dad, we’re gonna have a good time then.”

Recently I heard someone recite a poem called “Tomorrow,” by American poet Edgar Guest, that captures the perils of procrastination perfectly:

He was going to be all that a mortal could be. . . Tomorrow
None should be kinder or braver than he. . . Tomorrow
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who’d be glad of a lift and who needed it, too,
On him he would call to see what he could do. . . Tomorrow
Each morning he’d stack up the letters he’d write. . . Tomorrow
And he thought of the friends he would fill with delight. . . Tomorrow
It was too bad indeed; he was busy each day,
And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
“More time I’ll give to others,” he’d say. . . Tomorrow
The greatest of workers this man would have been. . . Tomorrow
The world would have known him, had he ever seen. . . Tomorrow
But the fact is he died, and faded from view,
And all that he left here when living was through – 
Was a mountain of things he intended to do. . . Tomorrow.

Lord knows I’ve done my share of putting off until tomorrow, perhaps more than my share. In recent years I’ve been trying to overcome that, especially with loved ones and old friends. When someone comes to mind that I haven’t talked with lately – or at least texted – I try to give them a call. When I think, “We really should get together for lunch (or coffee),” I try to make it happen.

We’re discovering how quickly our grandkids grow up – even faster than we realize. So I’m aiming to not be consumed by the urgent and instead focus on the important, such as spending time with one of our “grands” whenever we get the chance. Recently we went to church and enjoyed brunch with our oldest granddaughter here in town, and it was a special time. A rare opportunity.

Ephesians 5:16 talks about, “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Some translations use the phrase, “redeeming the time,” which I prefer because it presents the image of making a one-time redemption for a day or an opportunity. What’s “evil” about the days is that once they’re gone, you can’t get them back. They’re beyond redemption.

Another verse, Galatians 6:10, offers a similar idea as it applies to relationships: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers." Tomorrow, or as they say it in Spanish – “mañana” – may never come.

As Jesus said, "as long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work" (John 9:4). Let's not be like the fellow described in Guest's poem, who figured there would always be time enough for doing whatever it was – tomorrow.

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