The beginning of the post is from Saturday, so if you haven’t read it, skip on over to it now.
In this first chapter, Maxwell delivers eight gaps that keep people from being intentional about development. One really resonated with me – “The Inspiration Gap.” In his discussion on this gap, Maxwell basically de-bunks the idea of motivation, quoting from another writer who calls it a trap. In talking about his own onset with growing intentionally he says,
I had only one reason to do it. I believed I should do it because I hoped it would make a difference. That certainly didn’t feel inspirational. But I started. To my astonishment, after a year of dedicated growth….it did make a difference. After that, I didn’t want to miss a single day!
I experienced this not too long ago with my spiritual quiet time. I’ve been off and on my whole life regarding a daily quiet time. My mother was a wonderful example of this, but I had never been consistent until 2010 when our pastor encouraged our church to read through the whole bible together in a year. One of the fallacies in my thinking prior to this year is that having a quiet time is only for Monday – Saturday; on Sunday, I can get my spiritual ‘fix’ at church.
But taking a year where I read the bible every day – even on Sunday – was profound for me. First I learned how much more meaningful corporate worship is after I’ve already had one-on-one time with God. Second, I learned that no matter how abstract I might think a certain portion of the Bible is, God can and will use it in practical ways in my life. (His word never returns void. Is. 55:11) There were definitely days when I approached my reading time with a “get ‘er done” attitude, but even then – and maybe because of those times – God transformed the way I approach my daily quiet time. In the two years since, I can echo Maxwell’s words quoted above, “after a year of dedicated growth….it did make a difference.” Now, I don’t want to miss a single day. (Though, of course I sometimes do. I am human.)
Another theme Maxwell begins in the chapter that continues on is Do it Now. Life is full of good intentions, and reading books like this one can breed a concept of early congratulations similar to what Rebekah Merkle wrote about recently in a post for Desiring God blog called The Nowness of Obedience. She is writing about how obedience can only be accomplished in the present. However, we all are guilty of having good intentions about doing something in the future (tithing, exercising, etc)…
…And then, after having thought something like this, have you noticed how perilously easy it is to then congratulate yourself on your obedience? After we imagine ourselves being righteous in the future, we then think of ourselves as actually being righteous. We pat ourselves on the back as if that obedience was a reality, when in actual fact, we’ve not done any such thing.
Maxwell warns his readers early on of falling into this trap and extols us to Do it Now. The difference between those who reach their potential and those who “die with songs still in them” is actually getting up and getting to work.
So what’s the plan? Maxwell suggest dedicating one hour every day to personal growth. For me, that starts with making a list of the type of activities that lead to personal growth. When I made the list, I realized that they boiled down to three types of activities – reading, writing, and thinking. Some of these overlap and support each other.
For example, for me to write a blog post about something I’ve read, I have to take time to think. I first need to marinate on the concepts, and then even that act of writing forces me truly articulate what I’m thinking about what I read. I recently listened to a podcast where Knox Chamblin (former RTS professor and one of my mom’s spiritual mentors who passed earlier this year) said that he doesn’t know if he fully understands a concept until he’s written out his thoughts on it. I’m like that too.
Now, I need to schedule time to do these. For me it won’t be a full one-hour block every day, but in 20, 30 or 40 minute “appointments” that I will intentionally write into my schedule. Some days this will mean waiting 20 minutes before I turn on my computer at work to think about and plan different parts of my day. Some days it will mean altering what I listen to on my way into work. And of course some days it will be simply (ha!) getting up earlier or going to bed later.
I know that as I write this, it won’t be long before this initial motivation is gone and what must be there to carry me through is daily discipline. “Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it…” 2 Cor. 8:11.
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