Friday, August 12, 2011

Doing Stupid Things Faster

This picture is one of my favorite advertising spoofs. You can just hear this woman’s perky voice exhorting us to fill up on caffeine. That would enable us to rush into idiotic decisions, speak words we will later regret, and repeatedly embarrass ourselves. Now I admit I love the pleasant jumpstart of a cup of rich coffee. But so often in life, what we need to do is not speed up, but slow down.

There’s nothing more terrifying to a teacher than watching middle school students enter the building each morning armed with sugar-filled pastries and energy drinks. Interestingly enough, it seems to be the students with ADHD, discipline problems, and unstable emotions who come loaded with dietary ammo. One Red Bull is enough to destroy their nervous system, and cause problems with their classmates and teachers all day long.

I don’t know about you, but I do enough stupid things without sugary carbs and stimulants for breakfast! As grownups, we know we need energy from solid, nourishing food and regular rest, but shortcuts are everywhere. And the temptation spills over into other areas of life. How can we keep from doing stupid things faster? Here’s what God has been teaching me lately:

Win Slowly
A quote from race-car driver Richard Petty: “When I first started racing, my father said, ‘Win the race as slow as you can.’ ” If you stop and think about that, it makes sense. In the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the rabbit was faster, but his overconfidence cost him the race. The tortoise, who humbly persevered to the end, however, won. He wasn’t fast, but he kept the goal in sight.

Paul said it this way, “Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24). We are in a race, but we’re not going to win if we run past opportunities to love and serve. If we stop to nap we may never reach the finish line. Our goal is heaven and it’s how we race that gets us there.

Don’t Assume
I wasted time the other night because I made an assumption. Hurrying to put my sewing project away, I glanced at the illustration and quickly stitched two more seams. I didn’t actually read the directions because I assumed I knew what I was doing. The next day I had to rip it all out.

Assumptions can make a mess in relationships too. I have underlined, starred, and circled Proverbs 18:13: “He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame.” The times I listen before I comment, I avoid many stupid misunderstandings. It’s honoring to let the other person finish, even if I think I know what they are going to say; it also results in better communication.

Let God Speak
We often laugh at Apostle Peter. He had a habit of saying stupid things, because he got excited and said whatever came to mind. One of my favorites is when, amazed by their glorious appearance on the mountaintop, Peter blurts out, “‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)” (Luke 9:33).

I can just picture Jesus as He sighs and puts a hand on Peter’s shoulder while thinking how to answer that one. Before He has to, God booms from the clouds, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (verse 35). I can relate to Peter. I pursue pointless projects in my eagerness to honor the Lord. God calls me to stop and listen to His Son.

Weigh the Options
I usually make decisions rather quickly and am energized to move forward. Unfortunately, quick decisions are not always the best decisions; it can lead to doing stupid things faster. I learn a lot from watching my husband Kelly. If there is tension between us, he will pause before speaking, to avoid saying something hurtful. If he has a big decision to make, he will mull it over, sometimes for days before taking action.

He knows that the first solution may seem like the best answer…until you weigh it against other options. Waiting can drive me crazy, but his decisions are sound. Seeking alternatives is a stretch for me, but I am beginning to appreciate the process.

Get Knowledge
The wisest man who ever lived said, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way” (Proverbs 19:2). Apostle Paul would have missed his calling if Jesus hadn’t stopped him. Paul had the best religious training and lots of zeal, but he was killing God’s own people because he didn’t understand Jesus was the Promised One.

“Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples…if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he [took] them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:1-6).

Like Paul, we sometimes quick to cut down God’s own people before we know all the facts. We misunderstand our mission. And in persecuting fellow believers, we persecute Christ. That’s why reading and meditating on the Word of God every day is so important. It reveals truth and the attitudes of our heart; it is the voice of God telling us what to do.

Doing Smart Things
Words that appear over and over in the Bible are: wait, listen, meditate, plan, and consider. The most important one of all is: ask. We don’t need to jet propel into the day so we can conquer the world in Jesus’ name. What we need is to spend time with Him, learning from Him and following in His footsteps. Jesus was never in a hurry. And He never did anything stupid.

Jesus spoke only what His Father told Him to say, and He did only what the Father told Him to do. Excellent guidelines for us. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He spent a lot of time in prayer - checking in, gaining strength, talking over the plan.

I still enjoy my morning coffee. But I hope that starting the day with God will prevent me from doing stupid things faster. He is teaching me the satisfaction of walking slowly with Him.