I wonder if you approach big tasks the way I usually do. I see a gigantic, overwhelming monster in front of me, and I shrink back in fear and almost give up any effort to conquer it because the job will take too long or it’s too complicated or I’ve never done anything like it before. That goes for anything from cleaning out a house to preparing a church school lesson series to acquiring some new skill. To change the metaphor, I look way, way down the road at the destination and despair of ever reaching it. It will take too much time and too many resources. Why not turn back now?

Our recent hiking vacation, about which I told a little last week, reminded me that worthy goals are not accomplished in one fell swoop, with minimal effort or time. But they need not overwhelm. On the trails, we stopped often, sometimes going just 20 feet over rough rocks and uneven steps. A round-trip hike of a mile on one day took three hours. But we made it, little by little.

Do we eat a big burger all in one bite? Do we learn a new language by starting with obscure words and difficult constructions? Do we clean out a shed or a home all at once? No, we don’t “bite off more than we can chew.” We begin with the easier words and constructions in a language and move on to the harder ones. (“Ubi est agricola?” I remember from Latin class. “Where is the farmer?”)  We make a plan for the mass of stuff, tackling one corner of a shed or one room of a house. Little by little we make progress. We go by increments.

Life can be overwhelming. No, not can be. Is. What if we broke down the tasks we are called on to accomplish every day into smaller steps, as on that state park trail, and celebrated what we did? Looked not so much at the many, many agenda items we have yet to finish, the miles yet to go, but the opportunity right in front of us for service, for growth, for relationship? What would our lives be like then?

Easier said than done. But do we really prefer to stumble along the trail, exhausted, anxious, and frustrated? Why not give ourselves small victories on  the way, then when finally we do reach our goal (and we will), we will not only have gotten to the destination, but enjoyed the journey.

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

“Stone Door” photo © 2013 Susan Cheatham. All rights reserved.

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