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The Procrastinator Within

If I am busy, I must be productive, right? A busy man is a faithful and fruitful man?

Nope. Busyness is no guarantee of productivity, faithfulness, or fruitfulness.

But why? What distinguishes a fruitfully busy schedule from a non‐fruitful busy schedule?

I think it comes down to two important points: understanding our sin and understanding our roles. Today we’ll look at our sin and later we will look more closely at roles).

In the last post we looked at Walter Henegar’s candid account of how he procrastinated in getting to the root of procrastination.

In seminary, Mr. Henegar noticed a three‐fold pattern of procrastination in his academic life:

  • If it’s not due tomorrow, then I’ll take my time and put off the work.
  • If it’s due tomorrow, I’ll start the project, stay up late, and drop all my other priorities.
  • Once I’ve finished, I’m entitled to a reward. page 4 of 36

And then Mr. Henegar enrolled in a seminary course on counseling, where he began to uncover the hidden side of his procrastination. He realized that “my prickly branches of procrastination were being nourished by unseen roots growing deep in the chambers of my heart” (p. 41).

He’s referring here to a diagram called “The Three Trees,” developed by the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). The diagram, based on Luke 6:43–45, presents the situations of life (illustrated by sun or heat) that reveal the roots of sinfulness or godliness in our lives. These roots reveal what we really want and believe.

Under the heat of life’s circumstances, we sometimes respond in a godly way, revealing healthy roots that lead to fruitfulness (illustrated by a fruitful tree). Or these situations tempt us to respond sinfully, revealing a bad root and a lack of fruit (illustrated by a fruitless tree). The gospel is the centerpiece of the diagram, giving hope to the fruitless (through repentance) and reminding us that all godly fruit is a result of the gospel in our lives.

When he began recognizing the heart issues involved, Mr. Henegar continued through his semester with a closer watch on the roots of sin that nourished his procrastination. This is how he describes his discovery:

I began to feel like I was really figuring myself out, and it was still early enough in the semester to think I was staying on top of things. I’d notice when I started slipping blatantly into procrastination, and it was easy enough to stop—at first. But soon midterms hit, and everything quickly fell apart. I found myself pulling all‐nighters again, and it was back at square one. Ironically, though, I still had to work on an assignment for my counseling class. I reluctantly dove back, this time trying to get at deeper issues. It wasn’t hard to begin naming things.

Pride was surely operating: every time I pulled an all‐nighter to finish a job, I was protecting my reputation before my friends and superiors.

Fear of others was closely related. When I had those mild panic attacks, the fear of others’ disapproval was foremost in my head. page 5 of 36

Laziness wasn’t the main thing, but it definitely played a part; sometimes I just didn’t want to do anything.

Pleasure‐seeking and escapism were big players, too, though I generally confined myself to acceptable thrills like watching movies and binging on Ben & Jerry’s. (p. 42, emphasis mine)

Mr. Henegar did the right thing after this discovery. He repented of his sin. He repented to his wife for the presence and effect of his sin. And he turned to a group of friends from his local church whom he offered “a standing invitation to show me my sin—and to remind me of the gospel” (p. 44).

What Mr. Henegar discovered was the simple truth that underlying our procrastination—putting off the most important duties we are called to accomplish—was not so much a busy schedule but a sinful heart.

The good news for all of us who are procrastinators is this: The gospel addresses these sins, provides forgiveness of sin, and gives us the power to weaken sin and cultivate true diligence. In the gospel we find hope to address the procrastinator within.

Don’t miss previous posts in the Biblical Productivity series: