I can’t remember exactly how long it’s been since I borrowed the Lord of the Rings trilogy from my brother, but I think it was before my niece was born. She’ll be a year old later this month, and I have yet to read even the prologue.
That’s not the only goal I’ve missed through the years. I’ve wanted to learn another language for at least a decade, but can’t point to any measurable progress on that front. I should also exercise more, but I rarely do. Oh, and Scripture memory. I need to do that.
Sadly, there are also things I’m doing that I thought I would not still be doing at this point: Sleeping in so long that it’s hard to get my morning devotions in. Leaving my bed unmade. Hyper-focusing on what other people think of me.
While I can point to areas of my life where God has stretched and grown me, there are other areas where I am stalled at the same level I was years ago. How much further would I be right now if I had just taken the first step in the right direction?
What’s on your list?
It’s easy to think we’ll work on something next week or next month or even tomorrow, but assuming isn’t the same as actually doing. Now that my 20s are completely behind me, I feel this more than ever. Why am I still struggling to have a consistent routine? How do I still ping-pong back and forth with getting up early and sleeping in? Why don’t I yet have consistency in getting together with friends? Why am I still working through patterns of selfishness that I recognized years ago but haven’t done much about?
Maybe it’s a goal you want to reach. Maybe it’s a habit you know you need to start — or break. Maybe there’s a habitual sin you need to cut out of your life. Whenever we look at where we think we should be and compare it to where we are now, the distance seems too far; sometimes I feel like I’ll never get there. But God has promised that He will finish the work He started in us. So where do we start?
Change starts here
“If you were looking for a sign, this is it,” read a wooden sign in a church’s kitchen. There will be no magical moment when the task you’ve been putting off is suddenly easier. But if you break things down into smaller chunks and do what you can when you can, you’ll look back months or years later and see how far you’ve come.
Ask for help. God tells us that our sanctification and growth is His will for us. So while a prayer for help won’t translate to magical ease, we are likely praying within His will when we pray for perseverance for a task or steadfastness when facing temptation.
Celebrate the little wins. Did you exercise three days this week? Great! Even if your goal is five days, three days is a good start. Did you read one chapter of that book? Choose more salad instead of dessert? A little step is still a step. And it’s the multiplication of those steps that wins the race. Don’t despise the day of small things.
Keep going. Don’t let your smaller successes derail your continued success. You have taken a few steps — celebrate! — but never lose sight of the fact that there are more steps to go.
Slow and steady wins the race
At over 1,000 pages — plus six appendices — the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a commitment. I’m not planning on reading the appendices, but the fact that Tolkien took the time to write down a chronology, a calendar, the annals of fictional rulers, and — of course — a completely made-up alphabet only adds to my apprehension about taking it on.
But what if I had started it when I first borrowed it a year ago, and stuck with it? I would have made some decent progress by now. I leafed through it today: It has 62 chapters in all three books combined. Even if I had read one chapter every other week, I’d be almost halfway through.
Don’t put off what you know you need to prioritize. Don’t keep returning to old habits or making the same unwise decision. If we had made the choices we knew we should have made years ago, we’d be so much further along by now. If there is an area of your life that you’ve been neglecting, or putting off doing what you know you should, today is the day to carry that out.
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, be glad — and seize the time we have. As Samwise Gamgee said (I think), “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”
Copyright 2022 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.