My first lesson in procrastination came when I heard my grandfather tell Grandmama, “I’ll do it directly.” Contrary to what you might think considering the true meaning of “directly,” this meant, “Leave me alone.” The next lesson came when I realized the vast possibilities of the phrase, “I was just fixin’ to.” This was usually the response to such a question as, “Have you done your homework?” People in the northern U.S. who do not understand the niceties of Southern language laugh almost as hard when you say “I’m fixin’ to” as when you say, “Mash that button” when you want them to turn on the lights. One so-called-friend even told me, “You mash potatoes. You press the light switch.” In the South if we want to press potatoes we will do so although we usually reserve pressing for pants. Anyway, what could you expect from someone who calls the Civil War the Great Rebellion? However, I digress.
It was a delicious discovery, I thought to find that my cleverly combining the two phrases – “I’m fixin’ to directly” – you could put off doing almost anything until Gabriel toots his trumpet. I had used up a good number of my allotted years before I realized that the skill of procrastination is a deadly way of robbing us of the development of many of the Christian virtues. Most of us are nagged constantly by the knowledge that there are Christian responsibilities that our best intention tells us we need to get busy fulfilling, but as yet we haven’t.
A scripture that helped me see this was, “But now complete the doing also; that as there was readiness to will so there may be the completion also out of your ability. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according as a man hath, not according as he hath not.” (II Corinthians 8:11-12) The apostle, Paul, was speaking to people who had commendably made up their minds a year prior to make a contribution, but had not yet done it. This principle finds application to all our good intentions. The intention alone is good, but if it does not progress and grow into fulfillment by action, it is useless. Bible study, development of the fruit of the Spirit, adding the virtues to our faith, doing good to our neighbor and brother all die on the vine if intent is as far as they go.
Someone expressed it this way. “It’s not what you’d do with a million, if riches should ever be your lot. But what you’re doing at present, with the dollar and a quarter you’ve got.”