So Mike Bickle has this series called “The Power of a Focused Life.” If you haven’t heard it yet, get ahold of it. A big part of the focused life means keeping a schedule — this is what makes having a prayer life practical.
I didn’t always feel that way about it. As a matter of fact, when I first got here for Fire in the Night (coming up on six years ago… yikes), I did not like living by a schedule. I did really care about keeping my appointments such as church and dance class, and I hated being late for things. But so long as I made it where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to be there, I would much prefer to play the rest of life by ear and do whatever I felt like whenever I felt like.
Never mind that I was bored a lot and rarely prayed or got into the Word.
As I got into the internship, I quickly learned to appreciate having (and keeping) a schedule. The internship actually doesn’t give you much choice. Between your classes, meals, service hours, and prayer room time, there just isn’t an exorbitant amount of time left in the day to burn. With less free time, I began to care a lot more about what happened during that free time. (Plus, Sarah then-Bedford-and-now-Edwards was a great teacher regarding this topic in Track II. That definitely helped a lot.)
However, there was one point that took a long time to filter through to me. I assumed that the focused life was something you arrived at and could then set and forget. Sure, your schedule will need some tweaking, but once you find your groove, you’re good to go.
Problem: Life is never that predictible.
I was approaching developing a focused life kind of like decorating a room. You plan it, put a lot of time and energy into it, kill yourself over a weekend to get it just right, and then it’s done. If you keep it dusted and maybe touch up the paint now and then, it’s good for as long as you think it’s pretty, or until you do something really drastic like move away. It’s a one-time job.
However, I believe I’ve come to the conclusion that developing a focused life is much more like doing the dishes. It’s a bottomless job. About the time you get the dishwasher emptied, the sink has filled up again. Get that taken care of, and then it’s time to eat again and make more dishes dirty. The job is never done, with the exceptional reprieve found in, say, an extended fast where you don’t use anything but your water bottle.
I’m a writer, so I like to think of and apply metaphors. When I came up with the one about The Power of a Focused Life Doing the Dishes, I was at first pleased at the aptness of the metaphor, but then deflated by what it meant. I don’t like bottomless jobs. Not at all. Which might have something to do with the state of my room at the moment, but that’s another topic for another time.
But that got me thinking to why we do bottomless jobs (like the dishes) in the first place. We do them because life happens. Why are the dishes never “done”? Because we get to eat, and dishes make eating immensely more convenient.
It’s not an option to let the dishes just sit and rot in the sink — it stinks, it’s chaotic, I can’t find what I need when I need it, and can’t eat off of it when I do. That’s kind of like what not having a schedule does. Beyond just missing meetings or forgetting appointments, you can end up over-committed (or else bored silly), stressed, not finding the time in your day for the things that you really want to get done.
However, being overly hyper about setting up, serving, and maintaining the “perfect” once-and-for-all-time schedule is just as counterproductive. For instance, in theory, I could clean every dish and utensil in my kitchen, bolt the cupboards shut and say, “Nobody touch them! I just got them clean, and they’re going to stay that way, by golly!” Now everyone in the house is eating breakfast cereal out of Dixie cups, lest we dirty a dish — which, if I’m not mistaken, entirely defeats the point of having dishes in the first place.
I really feel like this is something that is going to help me stay on the ball a lot better as far as my weekly schedule goes. In the past, I’ve felt like, “I am staring at my schedule again. I must be bad at this scheduling thing.” Not necessarily — I just need to keep my time properly prioritized in an ever-shifting environment. While I should not be pulling a complete overhaul every week, dishes get dirty. Life happens. So does my schedule.
So there are my half-baked ideas on scheduling that have been percolating in my head for a while. Take them with a grain of salt. Before I begin ladeling out too many more cheesy kitchen puns and milk the joke to death, I think it might be best to leave it here and just wok away.
(If Christine catches me at this, I’m toast. But you know what they say; if you can’t handle the heat excessive punnage, stay out of the kitchen away from anything I write).