October 2, 2013

Pressing on to finish well

Dear Jane” is a complicated quilt made in 1863 by Jane Stickle and now displayed in a museum in Vermont. A modern quilter was given permission to make patterns for the 200 plus blocks in this quilt and put them into a book that has sold more than 100,000 copies. The book has no instructions but thousands of quilters have tackled their version, and most of them would agree with the motto that was coined because of the challenges of making this beauty: “Finished is better than perfect.”

My “Dear Jane” covers our guest bed. (This photo is Jane Stickle's) Both came to mind as I read today’s devotional about the dangers of being a perfectionist, for with that attitude, many projects may never get off the starting block.

He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. (Ecclesiastes 11:4–6)

These verses describe those who want ideal conditions for doing their work. They wait for perfect weather or perfect timing, yet forget the power of God who is not looking for perfection but obedience. The Christian motto might be, “Obedience is better than perfection.”

Being overcautious has as much danger attached as being rash. Consider this person that Jesus describes, a man given a stewardship but who did not do anything with it . . . 

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ (Matthew 25:24–25)

The other servants who received similar stewardships took common risks, but this man would risk nothing, and because of it, he lost everything. We know the perils of genius, but Jesus pointed to the perils of mediocrity. Great people with skill and inspiration believe they can and will say “Things are worth doing when you can do them well.” But those who have but one talent and a mediocre mind must learn that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly.

I’m learning this. The courses I’m taking offer a challenge to focus on the marks. I determined to focus on the education, on what I can learn. The latest one is so filled with information that it could have been two courses. It is putting my determination to the test for my mind can absorb only so much. I’ve even had thoughts of quitting, but remember that finishing this degree was God’s idea. Out of obedience, I must finish it. I tell myself that the other courses are not like this one. Besides, “finished is better than perfect” applies at times, certainly to this course. While my determination still includes a focus on learning, it is carrying overtones of just making the finish line.

These few weeks have been grim, gloomy and filled with headaches and frustration. I’ve had heaps of temptation to distract me and give blur to my focus, plus a host of ‘bad news’ that weighs heavy on my heart and makes study nearly impossible. At the same time, I do not know what God will do with this course or all of them. He may prosper my efforts or multiply beyond my imagination this small talent that I’ve invested. All I know is that He encourages me to press on. In doing that, I am trusting Him as I inch closer to that finish line.

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