Saturday, September 7, 2013

failing at bible study (among other things).

sorry, Mom, but it's Ron, you know? 
from here.

I joined a Bible study earlier this summer in Thomasville. I thought it would be a fun way to meet new people, to ease into this new town and make new friends. I was determined to try everything, to step outside my comfort zone and do brave things. (Somehow forgetting that maybe owning a business might be brave and hard enough.)

Now it's mid-September, and I'm officially ready to give up.

Make no mistake: I've loved getting to know the small group of women that gathers together every Friday morning, but the Bible study portion of this commitment? 

I have failed miserably. 

Our group is making its way through Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and I just can't do it anymore. 

If you're unfamiliar with the concept of 7, here's a basic overview (from Hatmaker's website): 
7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In the spirit of a fast, they pursued a deeply reduced life in order to find a greatly increased God. 
Each chapter of 7 identifies and details seven areas of excess: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. As a family, the Hatmakers fasted in each of those areas, giving attention to each for 30 days. The Bible study encourages participants to fast in each of those areas as well, but -- due to time for the study -- for seven days instead of 30. 

When I recently described the concept of the study to my friend, she began laughing hysterically. 

"What could have possibly possessed you to do that kind of study right now?" 

Ah, hindsight. 

I am a constant self-evaluator. I am always looking for ways to improve, to change, and here's the thing: I love the concept of Hatmaker's book. I love it, and I bought it, and I bought into it.

Unfortunately, in my constant quest for self-improvement, I also tend to aim for perfection. I don't want to do anything half-way. It's why I quit graduate school after one semester. It's why I fight so hard for my marriage. It's why I've struggled so long and hard with this decision to own a business.

It's also why I can't do this Bible study right now. 

I believe if done properly, a study of 7 requires dedication, focus, and time, three things I just don't have right now. Of course, many of the women I'm in the study with -- and, honestly, probably a pretty large percentage of the world's population -- would argue the study is, sure, better with the right amount of time and focus, but no one has a ton of that to give. The study is just as effective and meaningful if you do the best you can

Grace, not perfection... blah, blah, blah. (Said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

And therein lies my struggle. 

I don't like going to a weekly Bible study where I am -- week after week -- unprepared. I don't like remembering the night before we meet that I should probably do a quick scan of the pages to get the basic gist. I don't like forgetting what I'm supposed to be fasting from. (Doesn't that defeat the purpose?) I don't like half-way. I like life-changing. I like overachieving. I like diving in. 

So the question for me becomes: Do I quit everything I can't do 100%? I'm guessing no. 

In the book Lean In (a post all its own, by the way), Sheryl Sandberg mentions this poster hanging at Facebook's headquarters: "Done is better than perfect." 

That concept was a game-changer for her. It enabled her to pursue her career while also pursuing marriage and motherhood. 

And I know, deep down, that concept is at least partially true. I'm learning it every day as a business owner. I have quickly discovered: I can't get everything done, and certainly not well. Not excellently. Not all the time.

I want to read Jen Hatmaker's 7. I want to pay attention to the excess in our lives. (We actually did purge a lot of our possessions through the study, and Hatmaker is right: It's freeing and life-giving.) I want to live with intention and purpose. 

But I also want to go easy on myself. I simply can't do the study the way I think it should be done. Not right now, when my life is crazy and up in the air, and I'm just barely scraping by. 

Does that mean I quit? I'm not sure. 

Does that mean I become okay with half-way? Maybe. 

I know I can't quit every commitment that lacks my full devotion or attention. But at 27, I also know me. I know that fewer commitments are better for my sanity. And maybe my friend is right. Maybe a Bible study just isn't the best use of my time right now. (Sacrilege!) Maybe friendships will come when I'm least expecting them. Maybe I need to quit trying so hard, because life is tough enough right now. 

Maybe. Who knows? I'm just learning this all as I go. 


Paula Kiger said...

I just finished Lean In!! I think that's gonna be my post tomorrow night. And that is just a minor part of your post but I am going to have to owe you a better answer later. (But yes you are WISE WISE WISE to protect your time and energy!)

Laura said...

I read 7 with my bible study girls over this summer and I thought it was really great to just read and discuss without actually doing the fasting... Hatmaker has some really awesome points that changed my outlook on life - what I have and how I live vs. what life is like for the rest of the world. Our group had some really great discussions and only one girl truly decided to do the fasts, but I feel like I still got a lot out of it. You are so right - we can't do everything and sometimes it's best to just pare down our lives to make them manageable! I think God will bring you friendships where you need them in this busy season of your life.

Anonymous said...

I feel like we'd be friends. I relate to sooo many things you post (like posts that include Leslie Knope! Leslie Knope = me as a TV character, basically. Have you seen the episode where she drinks with the guys to try to break into the boys club and has this huge ethical crisis about breaking a rule? Not sure I'd ever related to a character as much as then).

But yeah, growing up, school came easily to me, reading (and loving reading) came easily to me, violin came easily, and it led to me being a perfectionist of sorts. Back then, and hopefully less now (but the tendency is definitely still there), I would just quit anything that didn't come easily, because I was a perfectionist and didn't want to bother with something that would take effort and not give a perfect result. (In some ways, I think it maybe had to do with the denomination of church we went to. Sunday school literally left me feeling like if I didn't make my bed perfectly, I had disappointed God. Also, I'm the eldest kid in my family.) It's a weird line to balance on: not wasting time on areas that aren't strengths, but also not avoiding personal growth. I feel ya.

Kristen Peterson said...

How funny! I also tried (and failed miserably) at 7. Her book? Hilarious. Awesome. Inspiring.

However, just like you, it all came at the wrong time, and my life just couldn't handle the simplicity. Which, retrospectively, makes me a bit sad because I want to be simple. Life, sometimes, just won't allow simple. We're supposed to be messy, right? :)

Love your stories, and all of your crazy madness, makes praying over you much more fun when I know what's happening! :)

Best of luck to you friend!