Melissa clutched the piece of paper in her sweaty hand. She had dreamed of being a professional speaker for many years. She felt that God had called her to share her life experiences and minister to others. She had learned how to craft a speech and had successfully given some presentations at her own church. She knew it was time to expand her speaking ministry.

After two weeks of calling contacts, she had gotten the name of a director of women's ministries at a large church who was looking for someone to speak for a women's retreat. For days, the first thought on her mind each morning was making the call, introducing herself and inquiring if the director might be interested in her as a potential speaker. Instead of making the call, however, she filled her days doing all kinds of other things. Two weeks later, she still hadn't made the call. "What is going on?" she wondered. "This is ridiculous! Why can't I do this?"

Procrastination & Other Avoidance Strategies       

Who hasn't found ways of putting off doing unpleasant or difficult tasks? Most of us have our own repertoire of avoidance strategies-whether what we want to avoid is cleaning the bathroom or writing a company's annual report. Avoidance can sneak into all areas of our lives. For some of us, avoiding a task is just a temporary phenomenon. We still are able to manage our time and ourselves to get the necessary task done "in time" and with the level of quality desired.     

Others, however, find that procrastination characterizes their lives. It may be most observable with certain kinds of tasks (like doing paperwork) or in relationship to certain kinds of projects (such as ones with perceived "high stakes," like Melissa's phone call). Instead of doing what they tell themselves they "need to do" or "really should do," they may find themselves engaged in activities like surfing TV channels or the Internet, eating, checking e-mail, playing computer or video games, reading, daydreaming, exercising, shopping, doing housework, talking on the phone, doing other work or sleeping too much.      

Bottom line, these avoidance behaviors can obstruct our journey to becoming the people God created us to be and doing the things he designed us to do. They do serve an important purpose, however. By studying our own personal avoidance strategies, we can begin to uncover the reasons for our procrastination, which usually include fear in one form or another. Telling ourselves the truth about what is going on in our lives is a prerequisite to moving forward.

Digging Ourselves into a Hole    

Each of us has experienced fear, which is a common human emotion. Remember that third servant in the Parable of the Talents? Entrusted with a talent, he dug a hole in the ground and hid it. What was his motivation? Fear! (See Matthew 25:25.) We can all identify with him, can't we? Fearful of trying to invest our talents and failing, we may choose to bury them. But as we learn in the parable, hiding one's talent displeases the Master. We have each been given talents, or abilities, to invest in this world. Many of us find ourselves, however, stopped in our tracks by the powerful calling blocker of fear.

Fear is powerful, and we are tempted to let it be our master instead of the Lord Jesus. "God-sized" callings by definition exceed our human capabilities. God-sized callings not only require more than we can humanly do, but they also defy our desire to control, define, curtail and delineate. Our natural tendency is to become fearful when we don't know exactly what will happen and cannot regulate all of the factors that will impact the outcome. We want to be all-knowing and all-powerful, but we're not. Those qualities belong solely to God. So it all can seem to be just too much. We stand, shovel in hand, tempted to bury our talents and ignore our Master's mandate.