Becoming A Person In Process

And other non-urgent matters

Becoming a Person In Process

The phrase that’s been playing over and over in my head all week, like a song that just won’t quit, is: “It’s more about the process than the destination.”

It’s more about the process than the destination.

I have to repeat it twice, even now, to further help it sink into my bones. Guess that’s why the Lord keeps pressing play, then rewind, then play again. Very few commercial breaks.

Why do I need to hear this phrase so many times? Because it’s a tough concept to get into my thick head. I’m a pretty task-oriented person. Knowing I’ve accomplished something at the end of the day is rewarding. I’m a list-maker. Although I’ve loosened up my expectations for how many things I can do in one day, it’s still nice to cross off at least one or two, and go to bed feeling like I’ve been productive in the most-Americanized sense of the word. Let’s face it – even if you’re not necessarily the most driven person, we live in a culture that’s obsessed with outward accomplishments. Achieving and arriving. We are encouraged, pressured even, to think in terms of the destination. Keep your eye on the prize: The Diploma, The Job, The Marriage, The House, The Kids, The Retirement.

Even having values that are admirable and good can quickly become more goal-oriented than process-oriented. The ability to be charitable, to take vacations with loved ones, or to be respected by one’s peers, for example. Taking it into the spiritual realm, we can have worthy goals such as being a servant leader, being missions-minded, and being effective at moving God’s kingdom forward, but still take our eyes off the process and end up consumed with the destination.

While none of these goals is bad or sinful, the way we go about pursuing them is very important. We can please the Lord in the process or we can go about them in ways which may seem right to us at the time, but are more self-focused, more self-promoting, rather than Him-promoting. Are we inviting Him into the process, allowing Him to lead and guide?

Last summer I read a book that provided great perspective and insight into our results-driven culture. It spoke into this idea that how we’re going about things (the process) betrays what we really value. It was very thoroughly-researched, and while I’ve forgotten most of the facts and statistics I once found so fascinating, I still remember the big idea and my own take-away, which was that we are a people obsessed with speed and production. So much so that the author labeled the phenomenon “the cult of speed.”

Not only are we consumed with achievements, discoveries, and accomplishments, we are hell-bent on doing them faster. The rate at which we’re moving is taking a toll on us to the point that we’re sicker and more stressed-out than ever. The point was essentially: what are we rushing TO? And what is happening to us in the process, along this path of push-for-production, addiction-to-advancement, need- for-speed?

While not at all Christian, Carl Honore’s books are powerful due to the insight and perspective they provide. I mainly refer herein to In Praise of Slowness: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed. But his other book, Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting, is excellent as well, and delves into how we impose our speedy lifestyle onto our kids.

Borrowing his concepts and transposing them onto the Christian life has been very helpful to me. When I think of our God and how He works – in general – He seems to be more of a process-oriented God than a destination-oriented God. At the very least, He’s definitely both. Unlike me, I don’t see Him rushing through the process, skipping steps and cutting corners, and getting stressed out in the meantime, in order to accomplish His will and purposes. His end goal.

Take Creation, for example. He took His time, creating each element over a period of time, and the Genesis account betrays a very detail-oriented and methodical process. Even one in which He involved man – having him name the animals – a step He surely could’ve skipped.  Could have said “poof” and had it all appear at once: the light and the dark, the land and the water, the earth and the heavens, the first man and woman, and all of the animals. Instead, each was created at a specific moment in time. Creation was definitely a process. From how the story is told, the focus seems to be not so much on arriving at the destination, but more on the details and even the order of it all. Without the details it could have been summed up in three words:

And then God made the created world.

Done. End of story. I mean, the details are all around us to glean from. Did we really need them explained and listed? It could have been condensed into more of a Cliff’s Notes version. But it wasn’t. And isn’t it interesting that the creation of man and woman, specifically, is recounted twice in the book of Genesis? The first in more general terms and the second with more specific details. I’m suspicious that God knows what He’s doing and does things the way He does them for good reason, so it seems that His focus on the process is evident from the first Bible story coming out of the gate.

What details do I miss in my rushing around? What treasures are lying in wait around each turn in the bend on the path of process and are not necessarily present at the finish line?

I like being an American, but if I had my druthers, I may would choose to be a Spaniard. Why, you may ask? I like their schedule, mainly. What says “process is important” more than these two words: siesta and fiesta? Work in the morning, go home for lunch, take a long nap in the middle of the afternoon, go back to work for a bit longer, and then it’s back home for a late dinner. These people take rest so seriously they plan it into their day. Storefronts close, streets get quiet, production pauses. And after work, they fiesta. What says “party” more than a late-night dinner? Families gather ‘round the table, they drink, they eat, and because they took a nap earlier in the day, they’re not rushing through dinner and off to bed. They take their time, they enjoy their meal, they speak Spanish.

What qualifies me to know all this, you wonder? I was president of the Spanish Club my senior year in high school. Don’t question the details, just trust the expert. I hosted the year-end party; I made the churros, home-made churros, I might add. Made the dough, rolled the twists, fried ‘em in oil, dusted ‘em with cinnamon-sugar. It was a long and labor-intensive process. But the end result was well worth the time and effort. Better than if I’d taken some short cuts and used a pre-packaged dough or frozen version.

Hmmm….the result was better the home-made way. Because of the process. This is beginning to sound familiar. A better end-product: the finished churro. A pure delight, bite by bite.

Evidently I got it back then, the importance of process. But twenty-plus years later it still challenges me. Mainly in non-churros-type ways. Here’s the thing: I think I’m at the wrong volume when I’m only about the destination. Being a person willing to be in process sounds more like the right volume.

But that's enough about me…what about you?

What do you find challenging about being patient in the process? What is so alluring about the destination?

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  • Cathy Soud

    I remember you as Spanish Club president!!  :>)  Viva Espana and the less hurried life. It is okay to take a long time to eat dinner when spending time with people. It is great to just sit down at a cafe and have a real conversation!! We are supposed to live in community!

    • Samantha Livingston

      Oh I was hoping you’d find this one! :) Such fond memories of you and learning the language. Also lots of regret over not maintaining it! Thanks for your comment. It comes at a time when I needed a little encouragement.

  • drpurifoy

    Process over Destination has been on my mind all week. Thanks for even more food for thought.

    • Samantha Livingston

       @drpurifoy Humbled and thankful to know Christie! The theme still continues for me….. :)