I once read that it takes one thousand hours of practice or study to become an expert at anything (such as a musical instrument, for example). That’s a lot of hours. Years, actually. But the point of the writer was that becoming an expert in something (almost anything) is what it takes to be able to not just consume in this world but to be able to contribute as well. I’m interested in that.
My 2013 One Word is Devotion. I’m finally embarking full-time into my graduate career in English. I want to be devoted to my studies.
One of the sports radio guys I listen to on the way to work each morning was talking recently about how successful people never live lives of balance. The top coaches and athletes aren’t balanced. They focus their time and attention on what matters to them – usually winning games or championships.
Graduate school isn’t my championship. I’m excited about it, but it isn’t my life’s deepest desire.
My championship is a life well-lived. I want my husband to feel loved and my kids to be likeable. (That’s one of my famous parenting lines: “I know you don’t like to be disciplined, but I’m trying to help you. I want people to like you. I want you to have friends.”)
Still, I believe devotion means I put in the hours where I want to be an expert: as a parent, a wife, and a student. It goes without saying that every hour of every day I’m practicing to be an expert Jesus follower. Everything else I do fits into that pursuit.
But you can’t be an expert in everything, so I won’t be working on devotion in all areas. I’m not going to shoot for balance in this season because I do want to be an expert in some things. But I can’t be an expert in everything. There are only 24 hours in a day and I sleep during some of them.
The nature of the area in which you are trying to become an expert has a say on the degree of your devotion, too. In my case, the English fellowship is renewable for two years as long as I maintain acceptable progress. That means I need to squeeze all those hours into a short length of time. Parenting is a little different. I have the rest of my life to become that expert. I can spread it out a bit more over the years. (Assuming, of course, acceptable progress.) When Claire was a premature infant with health complications, it required a different kind of devotion from me to become an expert in her care. I didn’t even think about pursuing my degree back then.
These are things I probably won’t be devoted to in this season: cleaning my house, eating vegetarian, running a marathon, or creating enough clever crafts to fill an Etsy store. Worthy pursuits? Absolutely. And maybe I’ll be able to put in a few hours toward some of them, but I won’t be able to become an expert. Not right now.
Maybe in another season.
But this season is about devotion to my studies and to the five people I live with. Naming my devotion helps me prioritize. When someone is devoted to something you don’t have to ask her what it is – you know by watching what she does, where she gives her time, and what makes her smile.
Here’s to a year of Devotion.