A while back, as I was following a "read through the Bible in a year plan," I settled down in my office and attempted to do that day’s reading. I opened up Genesis 36 and immediately hit a roadblock of sorts as I ran “smack dab” into a lengthy list of Esau’s descendents. Sure, I know most of you have memorized that list, but I haven’t. So because I wasn’t interested in slowing down and reflecting upon the sons of Seir the Horite or meditating upon the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, I skimmed the list of names.
Not long into the next passage a distinctly familiar phrase began to roll around in my brain. Over and over again I thought, “I have read, not skimmed the following assignment.”
I had no doubt where that expression came from. You see, the university I attended insisted that each student who had been given reading the night before sign their name on a sheet of paper, indicating whether they had read or skimmed the assigned reading. I remember as a freshman thinking, “What’s the big deal? Can’t I get by with just skimming?” The answer was “yes.” As long as my goal was mediocrity, then I could skim my way through World History, Psychology, British Literature and the rest of the books that kept me from playing pick up basketball at the campus gym.
Looking back I realize that my tendency to skim over reading homework then was part of a larger pattern of doing just enough to get by. My tendency when faced with a task is to, almost unwittingly, figure out what the path of least resistance is so I can move on to the next, more interesting thing.
Now while I understand that we were all born into this world as little sinners in need of a Savior, I’m not so sure we come out of the womb with a proclivity to skim. For instance, I’ve watched countless children (yes, even my own) receive gifts for their first birthday or Christmas and noticed that when they receive a gift that most of the time they have to be prodded to open the next package. Why? Because they want to play with the toy that they just opened. It’s only as they get older that they learn the art of opening one gift, saying a perfunctory thanks to the giver, and then tossing it aside to unwrap the next one. So I guess you could say that while we are born into this world as “sinners”, we have to be taught to be “skimmers.”
I’ve also learned that the temptation to skim doesn’t just present itself in one area of my life - - I don’t think that it does for any of us. The enticement to skim usually affects most every area of our existence. So that before you know it, we wake up one day and realize that we’ve been skimming in our line of work, with our spouse and children and maybe even in our relationship with God.
A book could be written as to all the possible reasons we skim, but the results of our skimming are uniquely the same: we end up missing the gift of life that God has put right in front of us. Either we are so focused on our past failures that become riddled with shame and guilt, or we are so worried about what is going to happen tomorrow that we become paralyzed by fear. Either way, when we skim the present moment we miss what is right there in front of us. While our Heavenly Father wants us to unwrap and enjoy the gift He’s giving us now – whether that be a child who wants us to play a game with them, or a spouse who wants to talk about something that’s been bothering them as of late – we opt instead to skim that moment, and then its off to what is next.
God is continuously, graciously making me aware that I wasn’t created to settle for skimming in any area of my life. For one day I am going to stand before my Creator and in so many words He’s going to ask me whether I have enjoyed, not skimmed, the daily gifts He so lovingly gave me.
This blog was written by Mike Thomas, the Community Life Pastor. You can follow him on twitter @JMichaelThomas.