Saturday, September 8, 2012

When push comes to shove

You would not know it to look at my office, or my tools in the garage, but I’m a fairly organized and neat person. For the most part I put things away after I’m done with them. For example, after making dinner (a.k.a. making a mess), I cleanup right afterwards before I am distracted (which comes all too easily). I first collect and take all dishes to the sink and rinse them off in hot water (this is step 1 taken from the official MRMD publication, “Mother Rita's Methodology for Dish-washing” that guided me through my early childhood dish washing days.) Then I collect all the pots, pans and miscellaneous tools used in making dinner, taking them to the sink to be followed by copious washing, scrubbing and rinsing by hand. While we have a very nice and efficient dishwasher, I still prefer the good old fashion hand washing. After air drying, I put everything away.

I don’t know how you take care of your house, but we have a weekly routine of cleaning. Once a week, normally on Thursday mornings, the house gets cleaned. Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, living and dining rooms are vacuumed, steam cleaned, washed and sanitized. Beds are stripped and made.  Towels and dirty cloths get washed, dried, folded and mostly put away.

This past Thursday I was cleaning up, putting things away as normal. As I pushed a drawer closed, ready to move on to my next task, the drawer bounded back, it would not close. Returning to the scene of the crime I tried again, with the same results. This time I carefully watched the entire event – I pushed the drawer closed, it started to close and then it seemed to bounce back out before fully closing.

This startling turn of events seemed to violate the rules of Thursday cleaning, or at least the immutable laws of physics. Being a good scientist, I performed the experiment multiple times to ensure that gravity had not been temporally suspended, that a meteor had suddenly shifted the axis of the earth, or some other mundane, logical explanation.

At the conclusion of these experiments, my normal inclination was to rip something apart. In this case it was to remove the drawer, take out its contents and reduce the drawer down into its subatomic parts, hopefully not breaking anything too important in the process. As I started down my normal path, I did something very uncharacteristic – I didn’t tear it apart. Pulling the drawer out, I peered behind it only to see something on the floor. Eureka, that’s the problem! There was something behind the drawer that was blocking it. It was too dark to clearly see what was down there so I tried reaching with my hand, but the opening was just too narrow.

After another 15 minutes of experimenting with long and narrow instruments (wooden spoons, tongs, knives) I pulled out the heavy artillery. Bringing in the broom handle, I was able to poke some of the debris towards the front where I used the long tongs to pick it up. It took nine attempts to retrieve everything. The picture to the right gives you some idea what was blocking the drawer.

After recovering from the cleanup process, allowing the drawer to close once more, I started to think about how I got into this mess in the first place. Where did all that stuff come from? How did it get there? I mean, if I had trouble getting to the stuff, it would only seem logical that it would have been equally hard for it to get there.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The stuff on the floor blocking the drawer had spilled over from other drawers! I had overloaded and stuffed the drawers on top with towels, plastic container tops, plastic bags and a myriad of other things. It’s amazing that we think we can keep shoving stuff into a drawer and suffer no consequences.

Isn’t that just like life? We try and squeeze stuff into one part of life only for it to spill into another. Most of this “stuffing and squeezing” relates to time and our schedules;

  • The driver in front of you stops right in the middle of the road to talk and there’s no way around them
  • Your boss is late for a meeting, pushing everything back, forcing you to stay late
  • You have 2 kids with different interests and schedules, consuming all your energy, time and gas money
  • The 4-some in front of you is painfully slow, dragging your round of golf to more than 5 hours
  • You help someone move and it takes so much longer than you thought, consuming the entire day and all your energy

We look to get the most packed into our lives so we can get the most out of our lives. Through the use of technology we feed the push to get the most done in the shortest amount of time. Perform a life experiment with me – count the number of people talking and texting on their phones while driving.
Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy technology and how it can help us. But what need is pushing us to have to be in constant contact with others 24-7?

While Jesus was never asked about cell phones, he was asked about the great priorities in life. Here is his answer;

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Pretty simple stuff; when you boil it down, life is all about loving God and people. That’s the priority list. If we keep that as our life focus, everything else stays balanced.

So the next time you are pushed to overcommit, over-packing your life and schedule, ask yourself this question; will it directly support these two priorities that Jesus wants for my life? Staying focused with God’s priorities will help “push back” when push comes to shove.

Blessing - Chet

Chet Gladkowski writes and speaks on practical topics that touch culture, life and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

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