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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bogged Down in the Details

My daughter and I share this character trait where we focus on the fine print.  We have the patience to work in fine detail: we unravel knots, erase and rewrite over and over, and remove lint and crumbs one at a time.  We look up at the end of a task and time has slipped by, and we still have many more to do.  We overthink, ruminate, and stay with something until we have it all worked out.  We are slow movers, deliberate workers.  We are the sloths of the human world.

As an adult, it’s no big thing.  I can do things quickly and with sparkling accuracy.  I just choose not to, most of the time.  Most of the time it doesn’t matter.  When timeliness counts, though, I can bring the action.

As a tween, my daughter is not so good at this.

“You’re getting bogged down in the details,” I say to her when she’s on hour five of a posterboard project, drawing with glitter and glue, fretting over the wrinkles that the drying adhesive made under the surface of the layers of colorful paper.  “The grading rubric says ‘no wrinkled paper!’” she replies.  “I’ll lose points if the paper is wrinkled.  Do you think it’s creative enough?  I’m going to add more pictures,” she worries more.

“It’s great, and those wrinkles don’t count,” I said.  “Move on.  Get it finished.  You’re spending way too much time on this.”  I try to help her understand task priorities.  A posterboard project does not trump studying for a science test.  How long will that take?

“Do you know what ‘bogged down’ means?” I ask her.  “Yes,” she says.  “I just want to do a good job, and it takes time.”

She’s right.  Doing well takes time, practice, and care.  We should always strive to do our best.

“I only want to have my hands on this once,” a former co-worker used to say.  His attention to detail was something that I admired; we got along well because we understood being meticulous in our work.  Unlike him, though, I was not always consistent, and I suffered through many revisions before I was satisfied with what I had produced.

But I learned to do better over time; in a year I was able to move with lightning speed and accuracy through the tasks laid out before me.

God wants us to do our best.  Whether it is a mundane household task, school project, or billion-dollar business deal, we are to put forth our best effort.  It takes time and practice.  This builds our character, trustworthiness, and work ethic, among other desirable qualities.

Further, we are to do it all for him.  I find that my tasks go more smoothly and I have a better attitude about them when I know that they are being done ultimately for the glory of God.  I find that I get bogged down in the details less when I know that the work is being done for a higher purpose than just making it perfect.

I see myself in my daughter when she knits her brows together at a rogue blob of glitter glue, the barely perceptible wrinkles on her project; it will bother her until she works out how to fix these problems, and is satisfied with the result.

She needs to learn that those small wrinkles don’t amount to much.  

What’s important is that God knows that her best effort has been put forth.




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6 comments:

  1. Hm, yeah, very true. Good for me to read today - maybe that's why I didn't get around to reading until today, even though you've been in my feed for days. Thanks.

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    1. It's funny how these things work out, isn't it? :)

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  2. Hi! I just had a question about this. I have been concerned about the fact that I usually work slower than everyone else and am usually truly always looking for something to be perfect. Are you saying that while it's good to be meticulous that it's better to do things for the glory of God, and when you do things for the glory of God you're less likely to be meticulous at completing something perfectly?

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    1. I honestly don't know the answer to that question! I don't know if it's good to be meticulous at all. However, I do know that God made me to be a certain way, and when I use the gifts he has given me, and do my tasks for his glory, things seem to work out better than if I just try to do everything perfect for my own glory. Hope this helps! (PS. I'm no theology expert. :)

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  3. I wish my daughter and I had more of you and your daughter's meticulousness. My daughter has inherited my flight, artsy (lazy, hasty) nature.

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    1. Either way on the extreme can be frustrating, for sure.

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