Monday Over Coffee: "Due Date"

Published June 5, 2023 by Greg Funderburk

If you ask me to do something—a task, a project—you'll almost always get a polite question in return. Maybe it's kind of annoying, but the question you'll hear back is: "When is it due?" I know it sounds a little juvenile, like a student asking the teacher if this is going to be on the test, but I ask the question because I know myself. Whether the answer is it's due tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year, I'll take a pencil and scribble the date down in my calendar. I do this because I know that if something can be done at any time, with me at least, it's probably never going to get done.

Here at the beginning of summer, whether it's on your computer, on your desk, or attached to a refrigerator along a well-traveled path for your family, I bet there's a calendar not too far away containing your well-laid or still-evolving plans for the summer. As I've already let on by referencing the pencil and the scribbling, I'm pretty old-school in this respect. I've got a leather-bound annual calendar that's divided into months from which I then generate a weekly to-do list on a sheet of paper that's basically always with me. That's my system—appointments, meetings, events, target dates, trips, goals, all my notional plans—they all get written out so I can keep up with what I'm supposed to be doing, when I'm supposed to be where, and for how long I'm likely to be there.

And while the what, when, where, how long information is important, it's interesting with a tool like a calendar, which is so instrumental in driving our days, our weeks, and our lives, that we don't utilize them also to remind us, prompt us, and direct us on a matter that's even more important. That is, we don't use our calendars to ask the biggest question of all—the who question. Turning the pages and examining my own calendar for the next few months, I see lots of crucial due dates I'm supposed to remember. I'm seeing lots of places I'm expected to be physically. I see lots of appointments and events filling up the little boxes, but I'm seeing nothing scribbled down that overtly prompts me to recall who I should be when I arrive there. And there's nothing that directs me to remember what's most important of all—who I ought to be or at least aspiring to be spiritually as the days, weeks, and months continue to unfold.

How might things be different if our weekly planners, our to-do lists, the calendars on our computers—at least every once in a while—included entries that didn't bear on the questions of what, when, where, or how long, but rather prompted us to consider, in the midst of all the activity, this key who question? How might things be different if our calendars, every so often, within the spaces we might typically use to denote an upcoming meeting, instead we scribbled or typed in a word or two—a due date in a sense—for more kindness, more mercy, more grace? How might things be different if in a line that might typically be used to remember an event or a vacation day, written in or by our own hand we saw the words: Are you listening? Are you being patient? Did you forgive?

Looking ahead into the whirlwind of the next few months, how might it change our lives if we assigned ourselves a few due dates regarding the imperative of developing more virtue within our souls? How might it change our lives if, as we opened our computers, hovered over our desks, or walked by our refrigerators every day, we were reminded not just about the tasks we need to accomplish, but directed toward addressing this who issue in a positive way? 

As you set out this summer, consider creating a system for yourself, a calendar, a plan, that does more than merely get you through the activity of the next few months but also asks you who you'll be when the season comes to an end. Enter it into the computer program, write it down in the book, scribble it on the to-do list. But be sure to find a specific spot for it on your calendar—a due date—because if something can be done at any time, it's probably never going to get done.

God — Help me build into my calendar some due dates that bear not just on what I?m doing, when and where, but more importantly who?who You want me to become. Amen.

— Greg Funderburk