Last week, on A Classic State of Mind, I talked about my recent visit to a 5th Grade classroom, and the posters I noticed that the teacher had used to decorated her classroom. All of the posters around the room centered around the idea of excellence in writing, and the tools needed for telling a wonderful story on the written page.
But the one poster that seemed to take precedence over all the others was the poster titled: “The Questions You Should Be Answering.”
And the questions were these:
- What are you doing?
- What are you supposed to be doing?
- What’s the difference between those two things?
- What are you going to do about that reality?
I’ve always been fascinated by the similarities between good writing and great living, and when I read that poster, I immediately knew that the answers to those four questions were not only of paramount importance in producing good writing, but they were terribly important for good ‘living’ as well.
That first question: What are you doing? Is one that God asked Elijah, as he sat in a cave. You can read about it in 1 Kings, chapter 19. It’s a question I think I need to be not only asking myself on a regular basis, but answering. If God came to you in the cave or place you find yourself today, and sat down next to you, and asked, “What are you doing here?” … how would you answer?
Unfortunately for many people, the answer to that question isn’t an easy or simple one. And one of the main reasons that’s a difficult question to answer is that responding to it would take some serious thought. And serious or sobering thoughts about what I’m actually doing with my life are not easy to come by these days, because such thinking and discovery demands time to think.
Robert Benson, in his lovely book, “Dancing on the Head of a Pen,” said that … “Good writing needs time for the texture of words to develop, for the momentum to build, word upon word, sentence upon sentence, scene upon scene, story upon story … And time is the actual currency of the speed-worshiping age in which we live, and write, and have our being.” Of course, in his describing the need for time, in developing good writing, he’s also giving a nod to what the Bible says about our source of purpose, as well. “In Him,” says the Book, “we breathe, and move, and have our being.”
We live in a speed-worshiping age. Answering that “What are you doing here?” question demands taking time to reflect. In fact, when’s the last time you decided to actually sit down and be ‘smarter than a fifth grader.’ How long has it been since you visited the idea of taking an inventory of ‘what you’re actually doing?’ No need for a guilt trip. No need to beat yourself about all the things you could or should be doing. Time and plan for change can come later, if needed. But for now — for this time, this place, this classroom — what are doing? Make a list. Sit and think. Just as ‘hurry up and write something down’ is not a good method for any writer to follow, hurry up and ‘do something’ is not a fulfilling way to live a life.
Think about this: Jesus defined the greatest commandments as these: Love God … and love people. As far as I know, there’s no way to ‘hurry’ loving God. Peace can’t be hurried. Prayer can’t be hurried. Relationships can’t be hurried.
How long has it been since you visited the idea of taking an inventory of ‘what you’re actually doing?’ No need for a guilt trip. No need to beat yourself up about all the things you could or should be doing. Time and plan for change can come later, if needed. But for now — for this time, this place, this classroom — what are doing?
A challenge then: Spend time thinking, this week, about the answer to question number one: What are you doing?: Who knows? The God who holds eternity in His hands, the God who has all the time in the world may be interested in your answers.