Remember that old joke about how to eat an elephant? The answer is, of course, one bite at a time.
As a child, I didn’t understand the deeper meaning of that answer; but as adult, I understand it all too well. Difficult tasks can seem overwhelming when looked at as a whole, especially when several items on one’s to-do list seem equally important, all of them needing to be accomplished, well, yesterday.
My husband and I were talking about that issue one evening this week, and he reminded me of the old one-bite-at-a-time adage. He reassured me that the house would not come crashing down around our ears if I put off some cooking or housecleaning in order to get started on some larger must-do’s, like attacking my writing deadline. Or sleeping.
Though I seem to focus better when my slate – and my desk, for that matter – are clean, I took his advice. I left the clutter on the desk untouched, homeschool assignments ungraded, kitchen uncleaned, and laundry unfolded, and I sat down to write.
(I could only dream of having a desk as clear as this. But I do have a cup of tea at hand when I write.)
For me, writing an article always begins with a staring contest. I stare at the blank, white Word document on my monitor, and it stares back. It always wins.
Then, I study my interview notes and start my introductory paragraph. Those first sentences are always the most difficult for me. But once they are on the page, the other “bites” come more easily; usually, about two hours later, I’ve typed a thousand words about my topic.
I often wonder what it was like for Jesus to undertake day after day of difficult tasks. I don’t recall anywhere in Scripture that he put someone off. Instead, he encouraged people to live as he did, seeking the kingdom first.
Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. – Luke 18:22
In a way, Jesus seemed to have such a simple life – no home, no wife and children, no paying job, no schedule, no worldly demands at all – that he was always open to opportunities to teach, heal, and help.
Now, I realize that none of us is the Son of God. We’re not even the disciples, far from perfect though they were.
Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. – Mark 10:28-30
I am not suggesting that we sell all our possessions and take to the open road, unless we are called by God to do that.
But we can certainly look to Jesus’ example of living each day wide open, and being okay with that. Though I imagine that he daily had to sacrifice meals, baths, sleep, and privacy, he embraced everything and everyone that crossed his path, from recalcitrant disciples, to plotting Pharisees, to ungrateful lepers. He had the ability to make time for everyone, to live in the moment in the holiest of ways.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. – Matthew 6:33, 34
He took each day as it happened, each task one bite at a time.