Thursday, January 04, 2007

Maturation

There is a character trait that I lack so severely, it may be my single biggest shame. I am so dishonorable in this area that even writing about it embarrasses me. But hey, that’s what the internet is for, right? That character trait? My work ethic. There was a period in my career when I could rightly have been called a workaholic. But it wasn’t because I had a good work ethic. It was because I was doing something that engaged me creatively on a multitude of levels. Had you examined my work habits during those years you would have concluded that I was a studious and self-driven individual. And you would have concluded correctly. But take away the fuel of creative control and heady, industry-shaping design challenges and you have a lazy leech.

Jesus’ admonition about much being expected from the one to whom much is given has always provoked shame in me. If I ever get self-righteous about how much better I seem than a drug dealer or prostitute I can always return to these words that cause contemplation of the relative resources we are all given. Some are given 10 talents, some just one. I think I was given a lot. Besides the wealth and health and convenience and luxury that comes with living in this particular place and time (which alone probably puts me in the top ten percent of humanity in history as far as blessings go.) I was raised in a healthy, happy, secure, Christian home. I was given obvious gifts that I could recognize relatively early in life. I got into one of the most fun and easy industries to work in ever. (Maybe calendar models have it easier, but I’m not sure.) I have a petite, pretty wife who loves and respects me. Seriously, the only way I could have been given more would be if I was born into royalty.

Which makes me feel extra-super-deluxe pathetic when I consider my work habits. I’ve done some time at McDonald’s and Jack In The Box, so it’s not like I don’t know what it is to put in an honest day’s work. But at my current job I’ve just been so distracted and board with what I do that I end up spending way too much time on the internet, checking email, reading and writing. I’ve felt convicted about it many times, and every time decide I’m going to change. Because I’m paid a very impressive salary to do a fairly easy job, my time spent doing less than phenomenal work is nothing short of theft. Beyond laziness, my actions are simply thievery. For a man who claims to be following Christ that is simply inexcusable.

I had my yearly review, and naturally, the distracted nature of my work was an issue. My boss says I turn in my work on time, and parts of it are really great, but he knows that with my talent ALL of it should be really great. And I know that too. As I am with all people, I was frank and honest, telling him that I know it’s a weakness of mine and I don’t have an excuse. I just have to get disciplined enough to stop being lazy. But as with all issues of self-will, I’ve never been able to Just Do It®. I was unable to break my addiction to pornography, constantly spinning between self-loathing, apathy, self-deceit, crying out to God, and round and round it went with no end in sight. I made NO progress on my own. My only explanation for deliverance is that God simply took it away from me. It would be nice if there was a series of steps that I could recount to the countless other men I know who are struggling with the problem, but God apparently doesn’t follow orders.

For some reason, after my review, something finally clicked for me. I decided to simply not have the internet open except at lunch. Yes, that is a painfully obvious step, and it’s not that I hadn’t considered it before. I simply lacked the… something… to do it. Now I don’t. I’ve been listening to books on tape and sermons while I work, and that keeps my brain interested so I can just work. I’m not board anymore. I’ll see if this improves the quality of my work. But at least I don’t feel like I’m stealing from the company anymore. This is such an answer to prayer for me. If I don’t have evidence of God working in my life than my faith diminishes and doubts creep in, and I certainly don’t have the right to try to convince other’s of the veracity of my spiritual claims.

Another, less dramatic area of improvement happened recently. I got a speeding ticket. This is the second one in less than a year. Before that I think it had been well over three years since my last one. I’ve always considered myself a safe driver. I always use my turn signals, I always check my mirrors, then double check behind me before I change lanes. But I do almost always speed. Not crazy fast. Just enough that I shave off valuable time without endangering anyone. Well, that’s apparently not good enough for my wife… or the police. Heather had a talk with me about my speeding. I’ve always felt that as long as I’m safe and aware of people around me, numbers don’t really matter. Heather pointed out that the numbers are the law. And regardless of how safe I am, I’m still breaking the law. She asked me to consider what that teaches our kids.

Being honest is important to me. I got a business license and paid taxes on the miniscule amount of income I got from my sculpture sales this year even though it was a hassle and could have been easily done under the table. No one would have been hurt. But I would know that I’m technically breaking the law. And why would I start a business - that I hope to some day bring revelation to the masses - in an unlawful manner? So why do I feel justified in breaking the law when it comes to the speed limit? Why should I say to my kids “It’s ok to break some laws that just aren’t important.” I think that unless a law is actively forcing me to reject my faith or hurt others, I don’t have an excuse for breaking it.

Oh, another driving issue I have is with yellow lights. I said I consider myself a safe driver, but here is where I’m going to contradict myself. I have this particular weakness that manifests itself whenever I have to make a snap decision. It happens in conversations, debates, and driving. It’s a panic reflex I think. When I come to a yellow light I almost always speed up to get through it. If I were to pause time, and think for even 5 seconds about the situation I would say to myself, “I would rather be 45 seconds later and safer, than 45 seconds earlier and endanger myself and others.” That’s a no-brainer for me. It’s putting other’s needs before my own and that reflects the servants heart that I have been given. But compress the time I have to consider the problem to less than 5 seconds and suddenly the weight of the world is upon me and the prime directive becomes getting from A to B as quickly as possible.

I blame video games. They have trained me to act in the most brash and action-oriented way possible in sudden-decision situations by rewarding such behavior. I’m only half joking.

Anyway, my lovely wife took in upon herself to play the megaphone for my conscience, and now I am retraining myself. It turns out it’s really not that hard. Besides, paying tickets and higher insurance is not being the best steward of the financial resources God has given me. And for those of you who are not convicted of speeding, I give you this vow… I will never drive in the left lane at the same speed as a car in the right. I will stay in the right lane unless I am actively passing another vehicle. (That was one of my biggest pet peeves.)

Next I hope to receive moderation in eating and sleeping.

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