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You Can't Do EVERYthing ... So Do SOMEthingSmall Ways to Change the World
By Shane Stanford
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2010 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWe Will Never Be Efficient Enough
Early one morning, while sitting in the New Orleans International Airport, I made an amazing discovery: "The orange juice arrives in the middle of the night." You may not think this is as momentous a discovery as I did, but of course I was sitting in the airport in the middle of the night when I came to this important realization. (There was little else at the time to serve as entertainment!) As the squeak of the wheels of the orange-juice cart woke me from my sleep, part of me was just happy to see another living soul. I had come to the airport eight hours earlier to pick up my wife and daughters from a flight from Chicago. Because of bad weather, their flight from the Windy City continued to be delayed. Finally, they took off around 1:00 A.M. with a projected arrival time of 3:00 A.M.
Louis B. Armstrong Airport, the official name of the New Orleans International Airport, is a busy place for eighteen hours of the day, and it is considered to be one of the most-used airports in the country. For those other six hours late at night, however, things come to a screeching halt—with the exception of the orange-juice cart. Of course, I had never thought about it this way before—how each new day, travelers from around the world will descend upon the airport, some attending events in the city, some coming home, and others only passing through on their way to another destination. They will stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner as they make deals by phone. They will grab snacks while they text-message and check their e-mails. They will prepare for the next "stage" of their life as they meet new people and say goodbye to old friends. Apparently, they also will drink orange juice. It suddenly occurred to me on this occasion, that as the world goes by in its hustle and bustle, and while folks grab their orange juice on their way to the important events of life, someone is responsible, at 2:15 in the morning, for bringing the orange juice to the kiosk. It wasn't the pilot, the flight attendant, the janitor, the parking attendant, the gate rep, the TSA officer, or even the terminal manager. No, at 2:15 in the morning, a gentleman charged with pushing the orange-juice beverage cart to its appointed place, at the appointed hour, did his job.
No matter how important our job may be, none of us can make sure everything is done. We simply are not that efficient. Of course, most of the time, no one will ask who is getting the job done. No, most people the next day will take their orange juice and simply take for granted how it got there. But without that 2:15 A.M. delivery of not just orange juice, but of all the beverages, folks would simply be thirsty.
Efficiency is a simple concept. It is the ability to expend the minimal amount of time and energy to get the job done. But the unstated facts of this definition are important. To allow for the "minimal" use of time and energy points to the fact that there is a limited amount of both to be used in our world. Given the nature of our time and space, and with relativity still a theory, we can be in only one place at one time, and to accomplish everything remains a physical impossibility. No one can be that efficient.
God understood this about us, not only in terms of the physical world, but also in regard to the emotional and spiritual capacities of our lives. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a perfect explanation of how God views our world and the understanding of how we are best when we learn to get beyond our own finite gifts and abilities.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)
If we take a closer look at that passage, we learn several lessons.
First, we are most inefficient in our understanding of "why" we can't accomplish everything. From the beginning, when Eve believed the Adversary, the question has been "wouldn't you like to be your own god?" The notion that we can accomplish everything has been a "heart" issue, because it has been the primal tension between wanting to be our own god and actually allowing God to be that part of our lives God was meant to be and for which we were created from the beginning. The writer of Proverbs says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart"—not part of your heart, or just at certain times, but with "all your heart."
Second, this passage tells us, "Lean not on your own understanding." Eve's propensity to believe the lie was to trust her own understanding first. She saw the truth, the answer to Satan's question, from her own limited point of view. God knows that we are most inefficient because we cannot know everything, and certainly we cannot understand the full scope of all the issues we encounter. Thus, God entreats us to "lean not on [our] own understanding."
Have you ever seen someone grow frustrated when he or she cannot get the answer to a question? I'm sure we all have been in that situation. The result often is that not only do we still not get the answer, but sometimes we also grow angry and make rash decisions that lead to other frustrations in our lives.
Instead, the writer of Proverbs says, "In all your ways acknowledge [God]." In other words, stop trying to be the final answer, and admit that you are unable to answer or know or understand everything. Look what happens next: When we do this, the writer says, then basically we are able to get out of our own way, and God is able to take the confusing, crooked paths of our lives and make them straight. I love this part, because it is such practical advice.
Think, for instance, of a man who is lost but won't stop and ask for directions. The result is one of two possibilities. Eventually, he will miraculously find the way or he will become so lost that there is no choice but to ask for help. What happens in the meantime? It is not pretty. There is a lot of anger and frustration that happens in working our way through a period of lostness. In these times, we are most aware of our inefficiency. Most important, we wander our way through life. If someone were to chart our path over the course of those experiences, the map might look like a bow tie, with many turns and twists. That is not God's intention for our life. God wants our paths to be straight.
Inefficiency leads to broken paths, broken hearts, broken relationships, and broken goals. Often we expend a tremendous amount of time and energy before we ask for help. Sure, we may end up at the right place eventually, but how long did it take us to get there? How efficient is that?
Excerpted from You Can't Do EVERYthing ... So Do SOMEthing by Shane Stanford Copyright © 2010 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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