Not All Inches Are Equal
Variety More Important
Basically there are three kinds of people: routinely organized, obsessively organized and sufficiently organized. The differences are:
The Routinely Organized person can give you a list of things they will do on any given day.
They start each day with the list in hand. During the course of the day they will accomplish all or most of the things on their list. At the end of each day they will make another list for the next day. This person is comfortable with habit.
My grandmother was this kind of person. She made many hamburgers during the course of her life using her special recipe and every one tasted exactly the same. They were amazingly delicious like everything else she cooked.
The Obsessively Organized person can give you a list and a timetable for every item on the list.
They can tell you when each item will or should begin and they can give you an end time as well. They also have a contingency plan should things not go as expected. This person loves reaching short term goals.
The Sufficiently Organized person may or may not have a list each day.
This person takes the long view not the list view so the day to day grind bores them. Living in the moment – the opposite of routine – characterizes their life. They easily over schedule and over commit but contrary to popular opinion this persons knows there is an ultimate reason for everything and can eventually achieve significance.
All three approaches are important because each one represents a different kind of inch: routine, project and ultimate purpose. None alone is sufficient. It is true that routine is the bedrock of success but you need more than a bedrock to succeed.
What you do in any one day doesn’t represent a life purpose and you can’t always “goal” your way into that purpose. The many common things we routinely do are good examples: eat, sleep, brush teeth, bath, tend the garden, go to work, pay the bills, etc.
Those things give us a sense of personal control and continuity but none of them are all important.
What about cultures where people don’t brush their teeth. Would they gauge individual significance on how many teeth you have left or how many false ones you can afford at the end of life? To them a full set of teeth would seem weird. Fortunately, meaningful living is possible even for people who gum their food. That’s good because brushing your teeth regularly is no guarantee you won’t lose your teeth anyway.
All of that is to say that ultimate success isn’t determined by numbing routine or an endless list of goals achieved and there are many proofs of this in the Bible. Biblical characters with the most impact aren’t easy to emulate. There was nothing routine or repeatable in their path to significance as the following examples will show.
As a young teenager Joseph had a dream about becoming a very powerful man in the world and was hated for it. He did reach the highest levels of power and to his credit, used that power to save the lives of many people but his pathway to success was launched by the murderous hate of his brothers and the false accusation of a prominent individual.
After the fact, it makes a great story but no sensible person would try to follow the same path, which included being sold as a slave and imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit. Obviously, God had a hand in his route to the top but shouldn’t that be true for everyone?
And shouldn’t we expect God to be creative enough to work outside the usual boundaries and to change the details from one person to another?
Also at a young age and as the youngest and least respected of several brothers, God selected David to become the greatest king of Israel but again, his journey to the top was fraught with hate, distrust and misunderstanding.
Another great story no one wants to relive.
Before Moses was old enough to know there was a God he was miraculously fingered to become the first and greatest law maker in history but he fumbled his way to success. He went from favor and privilege in Pharaoh’s house to a fugitive on the run. He probably married the wrong person only because she was the only choice available at the time, not too mention her father happened to be very persuasive. So, after lavishing in Pharaoh’s luxury for forty years and enjoying battle success in Egypt’s army he became a humble shepherd for 40 years before becoming the leader of Israel. Moses is known most for his anger and mistakes, not his day to day disciplined approach to succeeding in life.
Even if you were inclined to do so, could you follow such a path?
I can’t imagine any of these men having a five or ten year plan. I can’t imagine any of them having a short, medium or long term goal other than “God, please let me get through this day.”
Can you imagine what Abraham’s long term plan would look like?
Ultimately, according to God’s promise, he was to become the father of many nations. So here is what his pathway to success looks like from hindsight.
- Marry an infertile woman.
- Move family, a large number of servants and a large body of live stock several hundred miles to a place never visited before, without even knowing where the place is when the journey starts, and do all of that at a time when there are no super highways to make the journey go smoothly or law enforcement agents to keep everyone safe.
- After arriving at the destination, when the weather turns bad and supplies run short, move to a different place and lie about being married – the best option for getting rid of an infertile wife.
- Once the lie is discovered return in shame to the land of God’s choice.
- Still frustrated by the inability to conceive, have a child by another woman and spend the next thirteen years wishing the other woman didn’t exist.
- Finally have a child by the first wife only to be told by God to sacrifice him once he reaches adolescence.
I’m sure Abraham and all of the other men mentioned, did many routine things from one day to the next but none of those things represented a life purpose.
Routines keep us alive – like eating or sleeping – but they aren’t the reason we live.
So remember this:
Don’t just complete one daily list after another throughout your life. Do yourself a favor and identify one or two ultimate purposes that will make a significant difference at the end of your life.
If you’re not sure what your purpose is, no worries, ask God. But, remember this…
In the process of serving your life purpose, don’t worry about:
- Failure. Failure isn’t an option it is inevitable, it’s useful, it’s necessary, it’s required.
- Wasting time, a type of failure. Even the most efficient people will go through long gaps of time during which they are very active but accomplish little, other than the things they routinely do.
No doubt the Sabbath breaker thought seventh day rest was a waste of time and his example is a constant reminder that working too much is the path to an early grave. Although we tend to miss the point he served universal purposes more by his death than most people do in a full life. This post talks more about that.
It is difficult to get our heads around these ideas because there are so many philosophies that make us feel as anxious about time as the Sabbath breaker was. For example:
Make every moment count.
Really? What exactly does that mean? Does anyone do that?
“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” Jim Rohn
That statement may be true but it doesn’t give us a life perspective. It only compares money to time both of which are fleeting. The value of money is short lived and we never really possess time.
“Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.” William Shakespeare
Shakespeare was a brilliant playwright and showed great insight in human behavior but he wasn’t inspired. His ideas in some cases contradicted the teachings of Scripture. Shakespeare also said “neither a borrower nor lender be.” But Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who would borrow from you.” (Matt. 5:24). Which is to say, William isn’t the CliffNotes on Jesus.
Another ditty on time is…
“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin
All of these statements make us feel anxious about time and we respond with lists of things to do and goals to reach, like we must be doing something obviously constructive every waking moment. That tension probably causes us to waste more time than we should.
Not every philosopher agrees though. In answer to all of those anxiety producing quips Henry David Thoreau said:
“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”
Getting back to the point, the title of this article is Inch by Inch Life is a Cinch but this is not about plodding your way through lists, racking up more personal achievements than your friends and neighbors.
It is about every kind of inch especially those not found on a daily list. Inches that are gained by extra effort and persistence.
Athletes don’t manage these specialized inches through routine training and diet, which at the professional level are equal for all contestants. Routine, development targeted “inches” make the participants match ready they don’t determine the outcome of the game.
The inches that determine who wins and who loses only occur in the heat of the contest. These are inches we don’t usually include on our daily lists. We can’t see them coming but we know they will come.
I like to call them inch moments. Some people might call them defining moments. They are the inches that come at the end of routine and occur only on certain levels of growth. They call for courage and dedication at trying times.
These inches, rather than routine training, represent flashes of brilliance that define individuals. We remember these inches most. They are the moments when life purpose emerges.
So, in all of your relationships and in every project, look for these inches. Be emotionally ready for them even if you can’t mentally visualize them coming. Too stimulate the process:
Ask what God has you here for?
Ask how you can use the unexpected experiences you encounter (the inch moments) to reach that goal?
By all means follow your daily routine and chalk up your achievements but don’t forget to find your purpose.
Heaven Is For Real is a bio of a “near death” experience (NDE) but without all the “weird” and “sketchy” images that usually accompany such stories.
My review takes a positive approach. I believe Colton’s experience was genuine and his report is as accurate as any retelling of an event can be. And since heaven is not only real but very close we shouldn’t be surprised when it bleeds through occasionally.
The story is different in that it doesn’t focus on “long tunnels with lights at the end” or the sensation of watching medical personnel feverishly operate from a hovering out-of-body perspective. It is a matter of fact story shared from the perspective of an almost four-year-old child who had no preconceived ideas beforehand and explains everything casually. To him it wasn’t strange.
Rob Bell’s Love Wins doesn’t endorse universalism or deny hell. It doesn’t make light of sin or encourage anyone to party now and repent later. Rob explores questions left unanswered and mostly ignored by Bible believing people. Don’t be over influenced by what others say. Get the book inexpensively at Amazon, think through the issues, and speak for yourself.