I arrived at our house on James Island a little after 10:00am. I really thought that I would be able to complete the entire yard cleaning in a day; after all, lots on James Island tend to be small, in fact, ours is only about 3/10 of an acre. When we lived there, I could mow the entire yard, with a push mower, do the weed-whacking and blow off the driveway in less than an hour. Hedges need trimming about twice a year, and so that project only took a couple hours. I had this idea that I would be done and on my way home before dinner time. I was only partially correct. I was on my way home before dinner time; however, dinner time had been pushed back and I wasn't done. Well, the work wasn't complete. I, on the other hand, was done.
Here's the first lesson the Lord taught me that day: We tend to OVER-estimate what we can accomplish in a day and UNDER-estimate what we can accomplish in a year.
I began on the left side of our property, where my neighbor had planted some bamboo along his fence line, evidently for privacy purposes. If your neighbor plants bamboo, eventually you'll get to have some too! Our yard, from the fence line to the house was overrun with the stuff. It looked like a jungle! This guy also has trees that have never been trimmed back and I found limbs from his trees overhanging my yard to the point of touching the house. Added to this were vines growing through both the bamboo and the trees, the result was something like cleaning out a rain forest.
What I had hoped to complete in 90 minutes became about a three hour project. I didn't take a before picture, but here you can see the work on that side of the property once finished. The overgrowth had pretty much killed the grass, but it will come back now that it can get some sun.
I knew once I finally completed this phase of the project that I was not going to complete the entire yard in a day. I had over-estimated what I could get done.
It also dawned on me that I had under-estimated something as well. Had I the forethought to take the time to drive down to the lowcountry two or three times a year, odds are the yard never would have gotten in the shape it was in. Had I taken each Labor Day and Memorial Day, for instance, and dedicated those days to this piece of property I could have maintained it.
Spiritually, we make this same mistake. We over-estimate what takes place in a moment of decision, like a decision we make on a Sunday during worship when the Holy Spirit begins to speak to us about an area in our lives; and, yet we under-estimate how much change can occur if we just stay faithful and obedient over time. To put it another way, we over-estimate the moment of decision and under-estimate the power of process.
Now, I'm not in any way trying to downplay the importance of decisions; whether its a decision to trust Christ, give up a bad habit, recommit your life to Christ, or a commitment to service. Decisions are powerful because they get the ball rolling. Decisions overcome the spiritual inertia that tends to keep us standing still, going nowhere.
However, for that decision to have it's most powerful effect, there must be follow-through. The apostle Paul put it this way, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).
Over-estimating can lead to discouragement and defeat, if we let it. When I found myself three hours into this project, having accomplished as little as I had planned, this tempting thought invaded my mind: "You have completely wasted your day coming down here. You should have paid the landscaper to do it." The truth however, was that I had not wasted my day at all. I had accomplished something. Had I been able to stay another day, I may have completed 90% of what I wanted to do.
Here's my encouragement for you today: instead of getting all wrapped up in what hasn't happened, revel in what has taken place in your life. Our estimations are just that... a rough calculation of what you anticipate. Just as a financial investment needs time to produce a profit and a diet needs time to produce the desired weight-loss, our spiritual life needs time to develop into what it can be.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)