About six years ago, I began a new job. We had moved to Georgia from Ohio, and after some time to get settled, I returned to my career as a school-based speech-language pathologist. I loved my new position, although there were two factors that made it extremely challenging. The first was that I was not hired until one month after school had started for that academic year; students were halfway through the first grading period before I even walked in the door, so I felt behind before I even began. The second factor was that the caseload I inherited was HUGE. Thankfully, the position also provided the invaluable help of a talented speech-language pathology assistant, Lauren. Without her, I don’t know how I would have made it through even the first week, much less the remainder of the year. Even with her capable assistance, though, many (most?) days were just plain overwhelming. I quickly adopted the mantra, “Do what’s next,” to help me avoid being paralyzed by even the thought of so much to do in so little time. That huge stack of evaluation reports to be written? Progress cards to complete? Therapy plans and materials to develop? Phone calls to make? Emails to check and to send? Meetings to prepare for and attend? When I wanted to crawl under my desk and cry, I would whisper to myself, “Do what’s next. Do what absolutely has to be done right now.” Sometimes, that meant taking on a big task, but often it meant something really small–even something that might seem insignificant in light of everything that needed to be accomplished. Something like opening my mail. Or making a photocopy. Or printing a document I needed. Sometimes it was as basic as taking time to eat my lunch or use the restroom (seriously…teachers and other school employees will know what I mean!). Gradually, by “doing what’s next,” I gained momentum and eventually was able to tick tasks off the to-do list until just my day-to-day responsibilities could be addressed and successfully managed.
“Do what’s next” has become been an ongoing mantra for me. It’s one of my tools (weapons?) in my battle against being bogged down by the perfectionist in me who doesn’t like to start tasks unless I feel confident I can do them well and completely. Recently, I have begun to realize that reminding myself to figure out what the next step is, no matter how small, can also help me to grow in my faith. In particular, I’ve been mulling over this scripture:
Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path. Psalm 119:105 (NIV)
It is rare to find ourselves in literal darkness. There’s usually such a high degree of both direct and ambient light around us that scientists sometimes use the term “light pollution” to describe it. Perhaps, though, you’ve been camping with your family and needed to use a flash light to help you stay on the path. Without a flash light, you would have to stumble around in the dark to find your way to your campsite. You might direct your light far off in the distance, but it’s most useful when you use it to illuminate where you need to step next. You won’t see everything, but you’ll see what is most important right then, at that very moment.
Right now, I’m in a season of a considerable amount of uncertainty in my life. At least, I think it’s just a season; maybe it is a long season called “adulthood.” Anyway, I need some light to show me where to step next. I don’t have enough information to see all of the big picture, but I have God’s word. Through it, He tells me that I am significant and that I am loved by the very one who created the whole universe. He tells me that I can trust Him. He reminds me that He holds my future, and that He is leading me. He reminds me that His son, Jesus, is the Light of the World, and that through Him, I need no longer walk in darkness.
So, I’m doing what’s next: I’m holding on to these promises. I’m resting in the confidence that God’s path is the one I want to take, and the assurance that He is going to provide what I need for the next step, and all of the steps to come.
2 thoughts on “DO WHAT’S NEXT”
Good and well written advice, Julie. We tend to be be “big picture” people, and have inherited what I’ve heard you call “the completion gene,” or something like that. Before we engage in an endeavor, we want a picture of what the whole process will look like–and a guarantee that it will be completed successfully if we stick to it. In many ways, this is a great disposition to inherit. The world needs people like us. But, like you, I’ve found myself in many situations where I just had to close my eyes and pull out into traffic, as it were. (I borrow that metaphor from Patton Oswalt, who was using it in reference to directing movies.) All of last semester was like that at SU. I wasn’t allowed to teach the way I usually do, I had to do a bunch of stuff with technology, and every day I felt like an idiot at some point. The general consensus in one class, in fact, seemed to be that I was an idiot. But the other class seemed to like me. On the last day, I said, “Well, that was weird…But I learned some stuff. Thanks for being patient with me.” And everyone clapped. When I dismissed class, a bunch of students came up to shake my hand and say things like, I usually don’t like writing, but…” So it was great. This semester I feel a little more organized and secure, but I also feel less afraid about things getting messy.
So, yeah, I think the lesson is, even if that impulse for envisioning the big picture is a healthy one, it’s really important to have faith.
Faith in what?
As a big picture guy, it would be comforting to say “God.” But, as you know, I have problems with that dude. I know you’re a fan, but he’s just on too much of an ego trip for me. Always reminds me of Bill Cosby or Dr. Phil or something. I always want Jesus to get mad at him. I know he secretly is. But he takes it out on other people instead of the old man. That’s where all that nonsense about people frying forever in hell comes from–Jesus perpetuating the cycle of emotional abuse, acting out what he’s learned from his dad. Taking it up a notch even. Not wanting to have to deal with the messiness and confusion that comes with people not agreeing on everything. Not having faith in the inherent goodness and worth of all people, even people who refuse to invite you into their hearts to be their personal Lord and Savior.
Which brings us back to faith. Like I was saying–like the great and wise George Michael taught us long ago in the 80s, “You gotta have faith (faith, faith).” Faith in “whatever gets you through the night” as the genuinely great and wise John Lennon said. Whatever that thing is that kicks in when you need it to.
Didn’t mean to offend, but I’m getting old and running out of time to get real with people I care about.
Let’s actually talk on the telephone some time.
Thanks for commenting, Bob [I edited your comment only to remove mention of surnames, as I do not want to include them on my blog].
A few points in response to yours:
–The faith I am speaking about is as I described it in my post: confidence in knowing that I am significant and that I am loved by the very one who created the whole universe, that I can trust Him, that He holds my future, that He is leading me. Above all, my faith holds that Jesus is the Light of the World, and that through Him, I need no longer walk in darkness.
–Jesus is not mad at God; He IS God (John chapter 14) and has always existed as God has (John chapter 1; Genesis chapter 1).
–There is a difference between goodness and divine holiness. Although all of us come short of divine holiness because of sin, that doesn’t mean that we are not good or pleasing to God. We are each created by Him, and made in His image. We are “good enough” that God sent Jesus to redeem us and restore us to Him. That tells me the thinking some hold to that emphasizes only the wretchedness of humanity misses the mark. God loves us, He delights in us, and extends grace to us as a result.
Regarding your description of your teaching experience last semester, I love that as a description of what can happen when we step outside our comfort zone. Your students are fortunate to have you!
I love you and miss you. We will talk soon.