To Dive In or to Wait Things Out, That is the Question

Many years ago, a partner in the law firm I worked for (a very good friend and mentor, now deceased) told me that the difference between me and his wife on the one hand and him on the other is that she and I would see a problem and immediately roll up our sleeves and dive in to handle it. In contrast, his approach was to wait it out a bit, to step back and give things a chance to resolve themselves.

I was reminded of his comment earlier this week, when I got an e-mail from our head of Campus Ministry asking my view on how to resolve a scheduling conflict. No sooner had I read his message than I immediately sent an e-mail out to various parties who had an interest in how the conflict was resolved. Several e-mails (and slight disagreements) later, I suggested a resolution. Shortly thereafter, I received another e-mail from the head of Campus Ministry informing me there had been an error in a schedule he saw and there was, in fact, no conflict.

My first reaction was to jokingly suggest, “Guess I should have procrastinated and ignored the initial message for a few days before bringing everyone else into the loop.” In this case, had I done so, I could have avoided the time both I and others spent discussing the issue.

The problem, of course, is that while sometimes our difficulties (or perceived difficulties) correct themselves and no action is necessary, other times they will not and some action is required. It is not always clear to us which way to respond and how long to wait before we take affirmative action.

That I can’t provide any clear rules for deciding on action vs. inaction and that we can’t approach all situations the same way doesn’t particularly trouble me. For me there is value in simply being reminded that I don’t always have to step in immediately to take charge of a situation. Not every problem (or perceived problem) that arises is one that I have to act to solve. At a minimum this means I need to take a few breaths and to take some time for intentional consideration (including inviting some input from God) about whether immediate action is necessary before I dive in to try to fix things.