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Sometimes the task is a distraction...

There's a story about a man fishing with his son. They both wrote about the day in their journals. The father wrote down all the difficulties of the day including not catching anything. He summed up his comments with "a totally wasted day."

His son later wrote of the day and the time with his father as one of the happiest days of his life.

Whatever tasks the father hoped to accomplish that day, they eluded him. It's clear the son was oriented to something more grand: time with dad, and he clearly succeeded.

I had a moment this week where I was re-taught that lesson. One of the effects of chemo is difficulties with short-term memory. A good way to combat the challenge is exercising the brain with puzzles. I started into the first puzzle with the cutest crew a guy could have: Cute Thing, Awesome Boy, Laney Boo and Love Sponge, our "Second Batch". We got a good start on it that night. However, being "task oriented", after the kids went to bed, I decided to continue the puzzle and get as many brain repetitions as I could to see how far I could get... even staying up late to do it.

I then got to this part of the puzzle:

I paused.... I then realized while I had started out the right way with the puzzle ... with the kids ... I was now missing the real fruit of the endeavor: the time with the kids.

It was time to stop and make it about them. The next day, it became a team exercise: if we could finish it before dinner, it was ice cream on Daddy. Talk about a motivated group!

That next evening treated me to some true fun. Spastically excited 5-yr-olds, silly moments of kids forcing pieces to fit, 2-yr-olds impishly snitching pieces, countless times to affirm the kids and a bounty of preciously spent time, giggles and fun.

And, God-willing, some enduring memories.

Work environments like to talk about the benefits of being "task-orientated." It's generally helpful advice. However, if we reflect on the completed tasks of life, we should see that the tasks and accomplishments don't endure and in and of themselves, are meaningless. Whatever impact they had at the time won't be felt long, and in most cases, someone will come along and make that accomplishment obsolete. In addition, the "one anothers" and community/fellowship exhortations of the Bible should show us that God calls us to something better.

The task is often the distraction. It's the soul that endures.

[As a side note, there is application here for work and leadership. We have a leader at our work place who truly gets this. It's plainly evident that he doesn't view his responsibility as a leader to lead people merely to task completion, but to lead people to growth and true long-term success where everyone grows to being a valuable member of the team. He knows you get better results if the people are the focus. I could say more, but I'll leave the business analysis stuff to Jack Welch... :) ]

I try to think about what I would have missed if I had finished that puzzle by myself. If my focus had only been the task, I would have missed out on what really matters: the four young souls that endure. You know the best time of a puzzle? Yes, when you're down to the last 50-something pieces, and there is a flurry of activity as you finish the puzzle. It was truly more satisfying to sit back and watch the kids get that accomplishment and place the last pieces than if I had done it.

I have a real risk of missing opportunities like the puzzle time in the days ahead. You see, when you're challenged with a life-threatening illness, you're tempted to start thinking about "bucket lists" in case things don't go well. Yes, that's right... conventional thinking tends towards task orientation to the bitter end... :) If my life is going to be limited by this disease, it's clear God calls me to focus not on self-centered task lists, but instead on soul-impacting moments. I need to be constantly asking myself "what soul can I impact right now for His Kingdom?"

Unfortunately, knowing that 1 in 1 people dies, we're all ultimately life-threatened. If we're to know the full and abundant life God offers, we should spend less time working the tasks and more time impacting the souls in our lives... starting with those closest to us.

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