I often listen to Glenn Beck when I am in the car. He said something earlier this week that has been bouncing back and forth in my mind ever since. His comment: "The key to living successfully is acting proactively."
I think he is right.
Two nights ago I told the youngest of the Franklies to snow-blow our driveway. I suggested he do the neighbors too, having noticed it had not yet been cleaned out. He did; then last night, as we were cleaning our garage, the neighbor came by and handed him $21. He said, "No, no, I did that because we are neighbors, you don't need to do that." She insisted; so did he. Finally, he relented when she said, "Consider this as payment for the next time, then."
That is proactivity. Jonah cleaned her walk and driveway and earned enough money to pay his way to the youth group lock-in. How can I, at 41 years old, learn to do what Jonah has learned at thirteen?
Frankly, I react far more than I proact. I allow circumstances or events to dictate what I do. My calendar is filled with reactions. As I look through what I am working on, I see too little "sharpening of the saw." Too much going on in quadrants one and three and not enough in quadrant two.
My intentions are there. I arrive at the office planning to sequester myself for two or three hours of seeking God and sermon preparation. Someone drops by. The phone rings. The computer alerts me to a newly arrived email. (I have a thought that I just have to blog.) Soon I am following a rabbit trail that leads me far from my intended course. And, it is difficult to discern which of these are "distractions" and which are fundamental to my work as a pastor. The Apostles thought it wrong for them to "neglect the ministry of the word" to minister to people's needs, and yet I am certain that they didn't turn their backs on folks.
Where is the line? How do I balance being proactive in my ministry with reacting to the people I minister to? And, what would it take for me to become less of a reactionary and more of a "proactionary?"
Discipline, I suspect. Discipline to lay out my calendar and stick to it. Discipline to plan my meals and my workouts and refuse to deviate from my plans. Discipline to get to bed on time so I can get up when I intend. Plan the work; work the plan. Pay the price. Just do it. All the accurate axioms that I too easily relegate to platitude status.
I tell the people who come to me for marriage advice, "Having a good marriage is 20% knowing what to do and 80% doing what you know."
Maybe I need to take a page out of my own playbook and work a little harder at putting it into practice.