I am in my uniform for the day, tying off a simple knot in my tie. After my first day, I found that the others in my position level were not expected to wear ties. But I didn't want to come back the second day looking less professional, so it has become a touchstone. Something that I do to train myself in the habit of dressing up.
But what spurred me to write this is the curious practice of driving. After exiting my hometown, I hit a state road with a speed limit of 55-60 miles per hour. In my estimation, it is a reasonably lenient expectation. I want to just coast along in the left lane, going perhaps 5-7 miles above the speed limit for a cushion. My exit is a good 37 miles down the road, I don't have much need for hurry or changing lanes.
But each day, as I turn on to this road, I see cars taking the morning emptiness and routinely going 10-15 mph over the generous speed expectation. When I am gauging my car's position against theirs, I have the feeling that my car is moving slowly in their wake, but when glancing at my speedometer I wonder just how fast they are going. There is a temptation to match the flow of traffic pacing, not to look down and see where I stand in the law's reckoning.
I wonder further how this principle applies to other areas of life. Of how I sometimes feel like I am not making progress in comparison to those around me. I might not be paying attention to others who are measuring their behavior against mine and feeling bummed. I know that I am privileged in certain areas. I am grateful for the grace that has been given me, and I frequently pray about and remind myself not to squander such a gift.
There is a drive in me that wants to be more. It notices every fault I carry and mistake I make and pressures me with the suspicion that I could improve. This voice whispers if only I would focus and concentrate my energies on an area, I could excel and be an expert of sorts. But when I put my time and effort in one area above others, the others will fade accordingly to the drain on the attention placed in that one area.
It is a tricky thing to be alive and human. To be told that you have to be an A-level student, have a steady career path, a stable relationship, be well-informed person on current events, possess a presentable style and voice. There are days when I realize that I am not living up to my expectations. It is easy to be discouraged by this. But I have to take a deep breath, calm my mind and heart, and ask Christ. "How did you deal with this? How did you manage during your time on earth? What did you do with your time? How should I spend mine in bringing glory to Your name?"
As I get older, my knowledge of what I don't know keeps me humble. The knowledge that I can learn so much from everyone around me keeps me eager to help and learn in whatever way I can contribute. Balancing my life isn't easy, but I will focus on doing what I can with the options I have from moment to moment. I hope that the tools and skills I am creating, cultivating, and sharpening will prove useful down the road.
Until then, I will continue to rise early, array myself to face the day's demands, and try to enjoy the ride. Remembering that haste is a poor man's substitute to preparation in lead time and planning.
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." - Ecclesiastes 9:10-11