One of my mentors was telling me about a struggle he went through. He said it wasn’t what people thought, that you could romanticize it into something pretty. He said that it felt like putting weight on a table, and as you put more and more weight on it, the table begins to crack, exposing the weak parts.
I think IES at times has been a lot like that for me.
IES has made me busy. I’ve made concerted efforts to put the most important relationships in my life first (Keke, my family, friends). Still, there are a TON of people that come walking through our doors. Some act entitled, others are disabled, others have mental illnesses, others are drunk or high, and others simply don’t appear equipped to hold down what they all want me to give them, a job. Each of these people asks the same questions, like, “Can you get me a job?” “Can I put in an application?” They call relentlessly. I explain how IES works and they call back 6 times in a row.
“Yes?” I’ll say.
“Is the class at 5 or 5:30?” They’ll want to know.
I don’t think they need to call me that many times to ask that. It makes me lose my patience.
There’s a lady who has been sleeping behind our office. She looks like a hippy. She wears a long, flowing skirt and has beachy hair. She’s a little overweight. I saw her sitting on the curb with her head in her hands and asked if she was okay. She said yes. I asked if there was anything I could do for her. She said I could pray for her. I felt relieved.
I think I’m learning important things. One is that I honestly can’t talk to everybody, nor can I give everybody a job, and when I really don’t have time for somebody (and I know a lot of you have busier jobs than me) I probably need to honestly explain that to them and not feel guilty about it. Stretching yourself too thin is dangerous. This is one possibility. The other, though, is that God puts people in our paths purposefully. He thinks, “Derek is a decent guy. He says he cares about people. I know if I let Julie sleep behind his office he’ll do something to help her.” When I see Julie and quickly pass her by, I’m waging that my busyness will help people more than just helping somebody will help people. I’m saying that I don’t have the faith that if I don’t get what I was going to get done that he will.
For some of the people who have helped me with IES, I’ve appeared to them just as these people appear to me, and yet there are many people who have bent over backwards to help me. They’ve set aside time when there was none, they’ve opened doors that didn’t seem possible, and they’ve risked part of their reputation on IES’s success. And we all have this relationship with God. I call him ten times in the middle of every night. “Am I really supposed to be doing this?” “Can you do this? What about this?” He must be fed up with me.
I think too of C.S. Lewis. In his autobiography Surprised By Joy, he says that all his life he’d wanted to be a famous writer, but it was when he began to answer every letter that was written to him that he began to write all of the works we know him best for now. EVERY LETTER THAT WAS WRITTEN TO HIM!? Didn’t he know that he was spending time writing letters that he could have spent becoming a famous writer? Maybe it is about getting off ourselves. Maybe if I spend ten minutes helping somebody in front of me we’ll get a call for a couple of guys tomorrow. What do you think?
(I too want to become a famous writer. When we get to that point, I will answer every one of your letters.)
I don’t know where the truth is. I think it involves surrender, and I think like a lot of things the truth is somewhere in the middle.
In January and February of this year, before we finally got an office, I spent a lot mornings trying to get out of bed. I finally began telling myself, “Derek, if you get up, there’s a chance that something good could happen today, but if you go back to bed, you’ll seal the deal that nothing will.”
On my door I had written the quote from a book about wilderness survival, “You’ve just got to get on with it and do the next right thing.”
That is true.
I’ve noticed that I also have a problem with perfection. Most mornings I’m at the office by 5:45. I have everybody to work by 7, and then I’ll come back and have devotions and “pray.” I tell myself I’m too poor to afford coffee, and so a lot of my praying turns into sleeping. I don’t have a problem with that. But the thing is when I wake up, at 8:15, I beat myself up and tell myself I’ve wasted the entire day. I feel like this right now.
This is completely not true.
See, this window of an hour or so is when I’m supposed to be productive in my personal life. I’m supposed to be writing a book or counting angels or something. When I don’t, the frustration I feel doesn’t merit what’s happened. It’s because I’m a perfectionist. “You just have to get on with it, and do the next right thing.” (And chances are, I really need the sleep).
I’ve decided that perfectionists have to also be quitters or liars, because nothing goes perfectly and if they place their perfectionism above their purpose then they have to either quit their purpose or lie to themselves or others about it.
This might explain why family Christmases can go so badly sometimes.
For me I’ve just got to get on with it. Yes, I want to be intentional and write, but I screwed up again this morning, and chances are this isn’t the best season of my life to put together War and Peace, but it doesn’t matter. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. If it isn’t I’ll continue to screw up, and if it is I’ll screw up too. Either way, “You’ve just got to get on with it and do the next right thing.” So this and other thoughts made me conclude that it is possible: God is perfect, but not a perfectionist.