When I returned to seminary ten years ago, my first class was in Old Testament History. I can still remember that we were at a church gathering at a friend’s home when my pastor asked me who my professor was; when I told him, he grimaced. He said “He’s pretty tough. In fact, his nickname is “The Smiling Assassin”. Seriously? A seminary professor nicknamed “The Smiling Assassin”?
Taking seminary classes while working 50-plus hours a week was always a challenge for me. My wife can tell you that each time I opened up the syllabus, I immediately went into “I can’t do this. There is a class project, two papers, a mid-term and a final along with lots of books to read. How can they expect all of this?” She would always have to “talk me off the ledge”. But it was during this first class back at Covenant Seminary though that she instilled in me a concept that I still use today.
“The Smiling Assassin” told us from the beginning of the class that we would have to memorize the 39 kings of Judah and Israel in order for the final exam and whether they were good or bad. And these guys didn’t have names like Bill or Mike either. No, they had names like Jeroboam and Jehoshaphat. There was just no way I was going to be able to memorize all of these strange names and in order, too. I was overwhelmed. My first class back and I had no confidence that I could handle the work.
It was then Tammy said, “You’re right. You can’t memorize 39 kings, in order, all at once. But you can start with one king, and then do another the next day, and then one more the next day. Eventually, you will get to 39”. In other words, while memorizing 39 strange names in order was completely overwhelming, her advice was to memorize “one king at a time”. It’s a great concept that you can apply for yourself.
Do you have a major project that you’ve been assigned? You have a due date and its weighing on you, causing anxiety; you’re always thinking about it; it’s overwhelming you?! Maybe it’s even impacting your health and sleep. Don’t procrastinate – Get started today. I’ve found that I take away much of the anxiety of a task on my “To Do” list if I just get started – whether it’s writing a paper, studying for an exam or completing an assignment at work. While some people tell me that they perform better under pressure by waiting until the last minute, that’s not for me. No, get started today. Take Tammy’s advice and do “one king at a time”.
What about you? How do you address those seemingly overwhelming tasks on your “To Do” list?
March 15, 2017 at 8:32 am
Hi Bill – I remember the advice of my mom, which was much the same as Tammy’s, except the context was different: I was overwhelmed as a newlywed with the idea of trying to stay married for 25, 30, 50 years! She gave me the same, much needed reality check: you take it one day…and eventually you will find that you’ve achieved your goal. Or as they say here at work, you accomplish an overwhelming task the same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. I also passed this wisdom on to my son when he went to college; he was scared of being away from home for 4-6 months, and I reminded him, “you’re only away from home one day at a time. That’s all God gives us–one day–because He knows we can’t handle anything more than that…and even then, we get the day in tiny increments of time, not all at once. So you can come home any weekend you want, however often you want.” That got him off of his “ledge” and while he’s had other growing pains in college, being on his own hasn’t been one of them.
March 19, 2017 at 7:50 pm
I really like the helpfulness of that story. I am so glad to know that my little sister is so wise!