The Mill


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Image: Shinichi Higashi

“Often times, what is good is the enemy of what is best.”

The step mill hums underneath me. Feet moving in time, working against gravity to keep myself moving upward.

Step. 
Step.
Step. 

I listen to podcasts while I exercise in the morning. I’m religious about it.
Time for my body and brain to wake up and expand.
This morning, it’s The RobCast.*

“You can look at your calendar, and every day is packed full of a bunch of B minuses…It is better to be fully present in a few things, than distracted in many.”

I laugh under my deep breaths, lungs already taxed from climbing unending flights of stairs.

Always another step.
Round and round it goes.

And I think, where are the B minuses in my life?

I try to sift through my schedule in my mind.
I still keep my schedule in paper form . It is meticulously kept, color coded, annotated, and down to the minute most days.

Step.
Step.
Step. 

Sure, there are things in life that aren’t my favorite, that would easily qualify as a solid “B minus” way to fill my time, but it’s called “responsibility” right?
I can’t just stop that thing, can I?

On a different morning, not so unlike this one as I was working out, the step mill began to move faster and faster under my feet. Panicked, I pressed the “Slow Down” button repeatedly, but even as the display showed the speed going down the stairs regenerated under my feet faster and faster until, in desperation, I jumped off the mill, landing solidly a few feet below on the ground.

It was a terrifying way to end a workout, but if I’m honest it’s the way I end most things in my life.
Caught up, going faster and faster – by my own volition or caught in the flow of the machine around me.

STEPSTEPSTEPSTEP!
STEPSTEPSTEPSTEP!
STEPSTEPSTEPSTEP!

I fly off. I lose my temper. I lose my mind.
I pray I land on my feet and the pieces settle in large enough chunks I can still rebuild.

***

“I’m working on my lifelong task of learning how to chill the heck out,” I confess to my friend.

It’s lunchtime.
Six hours since listening to deep thoughts with Rob Bell on the step mill.
But I’m still climbing the endless stairs.
I carry them with me.

Always another thing.
Always another task.
Another goal.
One.
More.
Step.

The whole of who I am screams under the unrelenting task of it all.
Legs barking, lungs burning, eyes heavy, my mind at once racing and foggy.
Could I stop it though?
Could I step off the mill?

I think back to the question I posed in a sermon about grace awhile back:
“What if instead of telling people we are ‘good and busy’ we told them we are ‘rested and happy’?”**

I robotically reply to the “how are you” niceties offered up by people with “good and busy”-  but I’m working on severing the link between the two.

“Busy” doesn’t often mean “good”.

We call busyness “good,” but remember “good is often the enemy of best”.

What is best is choosing to embrace what is beautiful, true, life-giving.

What is best is relinquishing the elusive idea of “perfect.”

What is best is settling into deep rest at the end of the day or the week.

What is best is actually doing what makes you happy, to step off the mill of misery before we go flying off the back-end of it.

This isn’t to say we live ignorant to the pain and suffering around us, or that we refuse to take responsibility for the mundane and the boring (hello, laundry and family budgets).

It is to say that each of us is lavishly gifted with 24 precious hours, and that we are invited in those hours
to rest
and create
and care
and invent
and confront
and enjoy
and
…the possibilities go on and on
so why carry on in half-hearted ‘good’ when you could choose the best? 

Sure, fill out the spreadsheet…but then take a walk in the sun.

Eat your vegetables…but then turn off your TV and really savor that piece of chocolate.

Go to the job that pays your bills but takes the life out of you…but then turn off your phone and cook a meal for your friends. Break bread and pour wine.

The mill is necessary, there will always be things we do and days we live that are simply a grind. But may we never forget that the good and the necessary can quickly become the enemy of what is best.

A good week can be filled to the brim, busy with B minuses, and you can go months without ever knowing what your A game feels like.

Run the mill, but then take your rest.
Life is a gift, poured out in extravagant benevolence.

And one day, I may slow down enough to receive it.

 

*I was listening to RobCast Episode 1: One Thing during my workout. You can listen to it here.

** The sermon I wrote and preached at Transformation City Church (honstely, mostly to myself) is called An Audacious Identity. You can listen to it here

 

 

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