Over three days during quarantine, I moved approximately 1,500 pounds of soil a distance of 170 yards. I am proud of my accomplishment, but I would be lying if I said I was not initially disheartened by the prospect.
This soil was a pile of compacted ash four feet high and nine feet in diameter, the result of a decade of bonfires. This miniature volcano had ceased to serve its purpose as a burn pile, as fires are decidedly unhandy to manage when placed a yard in the air. I had plenty of time on my hands, so I set about to dispose of the pile. The sheer amount and weight of the material was daunting, and I procrastinated for quite a while before beginning one Friday afternoon.
It was slow going. I shoveled and hauled the slick black mud, but the pile only seemed to grow (in direct proportion to my rapidly declining morale). This stuff was wet, nasty, and quite heavy. While I had planned on knocking the job out in an afternoon, I realized that goal was impossible. As I grew wearier and wearier, I became less and less of a happy camper.
Taking a step back, I deconstructed the pile in my mind. What were the goals? Move this mess to the front yard to fill a hole, level the pile, and rebuild the fire ring. This was the three-fold strategy that would erase this heap from existence. After breaking it down, I started again, focusing on smaller tasks. I demarcated the new ring, I chose a new level point, and I mentally prepared myself to stop at 5 o’clock, no matter how far I had to go.
When I got to work again, the wheelbarrow felt a little lighter now that I had a tangible purpose. I counted how many trips I took and estimated how much each load weighed. 15 trips, 100 pounds a load…1,500 pounds of material moved. All in the span of twelve hours over three days. What did I learn?
I’m pretty good at moving dirt.
Also, I often lose confidence in my ability to complete a task because I underestimate what can be done in small increments over a longer period of time, deciding instead to focus my efforts on what I can accomplish in one intensive session. I have heard it said that humans underestimate what can be done in a year and overestimate what can be done in a day. I find this statement to be painfully true. In our ever accelerating lives, we are inundated with goals and projects that we feel must be accomplished now, now, now. We pack our days with projects that we work on for several grueling hours at a time while other equally important tasks suffer. I am sure my fellow students can agree with this. We need to reevaluate our priorities in terms of what we feel we can accomplish on a day to day basis.
It takes about sixty six days to form a habit, on average. This means that after sixty six days, that action becomes automatic; you don’t have to actively think about it. In terms of renegotiating how we look at the value of time, this fact must be kept in mind: change takes time. One day of intensive guitar practice does not make a Jimi Hendrix. The same can be said of one monstrous workout…it won’t result in a Schwartzenegger physique.
This principle rings true in the Christian life as well. I have found no place in the Bible that commands the Christian to serve for three days straight and then be done, or to love thy neighbor intensely for a week and then quit. The life of the believer is one of daily devotion and dependence. In Philippians 1:6 and Ephesians 2:4-7 Paul writes this about the timeline of spiritual growth:
“Being confident in this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Our salvation was complete the moment we trusted in Christ’s redeeming work at a single point in time, but that doesn’t mean that we’re done. Far from it! From the moment we place our trust in Christ, till the day we are glorified in either death or his second coming, we are on a road of sanctification, daily facing new lessons that the Spirit uses to mature us. That means a lot of things which are outside the purview of this small aside. So, I’ll leave it there, just to say that this is an ongoing thing, not to be completed in one fell swoop.
There are many tasks and trials set before us that are not meant to be accomplished shortly. Becoming more patient, loving more purely, and walking in grace are goals that cannot be neatly wrapped up in an hour, a day, a month, or even a year. Expecting the Spirit to accomplish these works in us in drastically shorter times than the Father intends is to presume that we know our spiritual timeline better than our Creator. We are meant to walk by faith daily, continually, not just for intense, short periods. I pray that none of us falls victim to the trap that is the misestimation of the value of time. It is beyond alright to allow yourself the time you need to respond to the Spirit’s leading in your life.
After all, how can one eat an elephant?
In small bites.
Noah Isherwood is a rising junior English major and digital storytelling minor from Newnan, GA. He is a First Year Mentor and president of Sigma Tau Delta (English honors society). Noah is an avid boater, occasional actor, and softdrink enthusiast. After Berry, Noah plans to pursue a career in environmental law.