Tomorrow — June 23 — is Typewriter Day, so I’d like to share the story of the typewriter jigsaw puzzle in my office. And, as silly as it seems, how that puzzle reminded me of what the Bible says about procrastination.
As soon as I saw the puzzle on the shelf at our local bookstore, I knew I would buy it. After all, I’m a writer and the puzzle is an old typewriter. I was so happy to find that puzzle and could picture it framed and hanging on my wall at work.
What I couldn’t picture was how long it would take for that to actually happen.
Putting the puzzle together took less time than I expected. We finished it in about three days, with all four of us pitching in at different times. Then the anxiety set in.
I had never glued and framed a puzzle. And this one was a bit intimidating as a starting point since it’s contoured instead of straight-edged and big — a bit more than 20 inches across. What if I messed something up when I glued it? Once I glued the front, what if it fell apart when I flipped it to glue the back?
I dealt with the anxiety by ignoring it. The puzzle lay on the dining room table for a couple weeks, until just before family came over to celebrate our son’s birthday. I slid a piece of posterboard under it and carefully relocated it to my office downstairs.
That typewriter puzzle claimed a spot on my office floor for weeks … then months … then more months. As embarrassing as it is to admit, it stayed on my floor for more than a year.
Yes, more than a year. All because I was afraid something would go wrong when gluing and then taking it to the frame shop.
What a silly reason to procrastinate! I wish I could claim procrastinating is unusual for me, but it’s easy to do for all sorts of things. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Cleaning out the fridge. Starting a new exercise or eating program. Getting back to church after watching online services for so many months. Carving out prayer time. The list goes on.
For some situations, procrastinating can seem valid because something really could go wrong. In other situations, though, all procrastinating does is create a roadblock that doesn’t have to be there.
What the Bible says about procrastinating
Of course, the Bible includes plenty of verses chiding people who procrastinate, even labeling those people as sloths, sluggards and lazy. Ouch! Here are a few of those verses (realizing I’m not digging into their full context here):
- But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Corinthians 14:40)
- Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)
- If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:17)
- As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. (John 9:4)
- One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (Proverbs 18:9)
It’s easy to agree that everything should be done “in a fitting and orderly way.” But to compare someone who slacks in their work to one who destroys? That’s a zinger.
We assign ourselves “to-do’s,” but some also come from God. While it’s clear that we need to do whatever work is in front of us, procrastinating on some things — like gluing and framing my typewriter puzzle — won’t necessarily make much difference in the big picture of life.
Procrastinating on the things we believe God wants us to do is more serious. Whatever those things might be, if God wants us to do them, He’ll show us how. We might not need to jump in and do everything overnight. But as long as we take small steps in that direction, God will help us keep moving where He wants.
We might even look back later and realize our procrastination was pointless. That’s what happened with my puzzle. I put several layers of glue on the front and nothing fell out of place when we flipped it. I put a couple more layers on the back and had no trouble getting it to Hobby Lobby. The framing department was having such a quiet day that they finished it while I wandered the store for a while (which is easy for me to do there!).
So, yes, the puzzle I procrastinated about for more than a year was mounted, framed and ready to take home less than an hour after I took it to the store. I hung it in my home office that afternoon instead of waiting to take it to work.
Now it’s a focal point that always makes me smile. And a constant reminder that the things that make me anxious — the things that tempt me to procrastinate — can sometimes be things that aren’t worth worrying about in the first place.
Lord, it’s so easy to put things off because we’re anxious about what might happen, but that’s crazy because we’re not the ones in control anyway. You’re the one in control and we’re so glad for it. Help us keep moving forward the way you want us to go instead of letting ourselves get bogged down by procrastination. Amen.