Well. The irony. This one hit me upside the head suddenly last week and since then it has been a duel to get it written. I fell into the trap of hesitation.
How often have you found yourself feeling an urge to let someone know how you feel about them, then a day later you hear that they have passed on? Too morbid? Ok. What about when a zip of inspiration runs through your brain and you shrug it off as a silly imagination? Then not long after you hear one of your colleagues voicing with verve the fleeting feeling you turned away earlier? That exam you have to study for… how often do you find yourself waiting around and putting it off only to hysterically cram two days before? What about having a strong inclination to go and take the chicken out of the freezer? You hesitate, then totally forget, and guess whose mom comes through the door, loudly quarreling about what she told you to do three hours ago?
There are numerous factors which cause us to pause to our detriment. One key reason we may be slow to confess is that we are lazy. We hesitate to answer the phone because it is across the room. We do not want to visit the hospital because there are too many stairs to climb. I am not encouraging us to do things to be paid back, but sometimes we miss the reward that comes with due diligence because we are lazy.
Busy-ness is another factor which drives hesitation. When our plates are too full, we find ourselves prioritising and re-prioritising. Since my pregnancy, I encountered the insufferable “baby brain”. Aside from the random, unexplained gaps in my memory, I have noticed that if I do not take care of certain things immediately I totally forget them, resulting in unwanted consequences later on. Since I did not write this down when I had the chance, all my domestic responsibilities quickly swamped me again before I could get another chance to come up for air. We cannot afford be too busy to do the things that really matter or we will pay for it later. We have to try to maximise free spaces though they often come as precious little.
Still, one of the biggest causes for hesitation is doubt. When we get an inkling we do not believe it is necessary. We do not believe it is the prodding of the Holy Spirit. We do not believe that our little voice or trembling hand can make enough change to make leaving our comfort zone worthwhile. Our unbelief wreaks havoc subtly. It woos and lures us into a cozy space. So we stay where we are and wait for the even greater discomfort of “I should have…” I should have told the truth to prevent so and so from getting into trouble, I should have given him a ride so he would not have had to walk in the rain. The list is endless. Do not doubt how much your little meal can provide for those in need.
Let me be clear: delaying to act can sometimes be a good thing. It can cause us to see details we may have missed otherwise, it can help us to potentially avoid danger and it can help us re-route to make better decisions. Sometimes it can even save a life. I am sure many of us have heard the stories of workers who escaped the 9/11 tragedy because they were hindered from getting to work on time. But we know there is a big difference between those instances and the trap of hesitation. Today, the biggest price (I hope) that I pay for falling into it, is my red, bulging, watery eyes and sacrificed sleep in an attempt to avoid posting a day late.
However, there are more severe consequences which can present themselves when we miss what is often referred to in Theology as a ‘kairos’ moment. There have been times when I felt impressed to share something with someone and because I hesitated, God used someone else to deliver the message. Scripture, specifically Luke 19, illustrates an exchange between Jesus and the pharisees where the pharisees demand that Jesus instruct His followers to be silent. Jesus in turn responds,
I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out v40
While I am yet to see literal stones cry out in the place of humans, there is a point here which can be applied. If there are things that the Holy Spirit moves upon us to do and we hesitate to do it, we must realise that we are not indispensable. God’s work will be established one way or another by the hands of those who are willing. Let us not be left out!
I can think of several instances where I wished I could go back and be obedient within circumstances in a way that aligned with scripture. I missed key moments because of hesitation. Fortunately, God is merciful and gracious but regret is not something anyone wants to collect much of over time.
There are even worse consequences to potentially reap moreover for hesitating. Consider the five wise virgins and the five foolish ones. The foolish virgins were professionals at hesitation. They could have had a small suspicion that their lamps would have run out of oil before the marriage supper. The shops were still open at the time. They could have gone for extra. Yet they ignored future impact to sustain present comfort. How many times do we do that? Find ourselves in a tricky situation because we hesitated to act? Of course their oil runs out and we know the rest. They get locked out of what should have been the most important invitation of their lives. There are great opportunities we can miss, life changing ones, if we do something as small but as deadly as hesitating.
Benjamin Franklin puts it simply. The old adage goes:
“Do not put off for tomorrow what can be done today.”
Strike while the iron is hot, it is said. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. If you are driving and your gas light is on, wisdom would dictate that you go and fill up. Well unless of course we want to break down and become a traffic-causing-spectacle on the main road. If you’re not sure how to avoid hesitation, one thing I practice, especially as an overthinker is to start moving physically before my mind can start moving. It is so easy to overthink yourself into paralysis. Sometimes the best thing to do before allowing the indecision to settle in is to close your eyes and jump.