Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Time to Quit

The determination to finish what one starts is an admirable quality--until one starts applying it to tasks that never should have been started in the first place, or that are literally impossible to finish. Take it from a chronic offender. I have plowed through to the end of a 1,000-page text which had proven itself not worth reading within the first ten pages; thrown an all-out hysterical tantrum when bad weather forced the cancellation of a long-planned birthday outing (Sound like typical childhood behavior? The birthday in question was my thirty-ninth!); and forced myself to drink two quarts of milk in an hour lest part of the gallon spoil before I got to it. One stormy day, my determination not to turn back from a planned outing led me to drive into fender-deep water--and from there into an attempt to cut across "higher ground," i. e., the sidewalk, where the engine finally quit dead. That trip cost me a visit to the auto repair shop; two weeks for the interior carpets to dry out; a soaking from walking to the nearest store for shelter; and a bad chill when that store turned out to be heavily air-conditioned. Considering what's happened to some people who insisted on driving into floodwaters, that was getting off easy.

While I don't wholeheartedly endorse the idea that God always has one preferred thing for any Christian to be doing in any given moment, I do believe it possible to get obsessed with finishing something for no better reason than having started it, while ignoring the Spirit's still small whisper: "This project is not a good use of your time; put it aside, because I have better work for you." It hurts our pride to admit we never should have started something, that we used bad judgment in choosing a task, that we have invested a huge chunk of time in something not worth finishing. Even when that thing is less benign than a short drive or semi-readable reference book. Have you ever stayed for the end of a television program that had proven itself everything short of hard-core pornographic within the first five minutes? Lied to your boss rather than admit you planned a schedule you couldn't handle? Drunk wine until you couldn't stand up and then blamed the waiter for constantly refilling your glass? We don't always continue in sin because we enjoy it; sometimes we fully intend to give it up "after I just finish this last one," but keep thinking that being a "quitter" is the higher evil.

Actually, receiving God's best may require that we occasionally quit not-so-good things in the middle.

They say no quitter ever wins,
That life rewards the worker,
He who completes what he begins,
And not the duty-shirker.
But if a task proves poor indeed,
Was chosen in pure hasting,
And brings no joy and meets no need--
It's time to quit your wasting!

They say to finish what you start,
That quitting is for losers,
Persistence feeds a Christlike heart,
And God rewards firm choosers.
But if you find the steps you took
Were wrong from the beginning,
Some dazzling bait on deadly hook--
You'd better quit your sinning!

God has His tasks for us to do,
And, working at His calling,
We're honor-bound to see things through,
Lest we be tricked to falling.
But we may miss God's best for grime,
If we insist on sticking
To work that only wastes our time--
So quit--life's clock is ticking!

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