The Art of Incompletion

Recently a friend asked me if I had read any good books. I wanted to answer, but I was stuck. I quickly tried to imagine the stack of books by my night stand:

-a friend just loaned me Steinbecks’ East of Eden (but I’ve only made it to page 3),
-my grandmother gave me a memoir about a teacher (and my goal is to finish it over Christmas),
Mi Voz Mi Vida (I skim a chapter every now and then with hopes of improving my Spanish),
-I just bought two new books by Donald Miller (but I haven’t even opened the cover)
They Like Jesus, But Not The Church (I borrowed it from a friend months ago and I am still not done with it!)
-I read Real Simple magazine regularly (but that doesn’t exactly counts as a book)

Then it hit me, I have not finished a book in a long time. I mean I have not read a whole book, from beginning to end, without skimming or jumping around to “interesting chapters,” in a really, really long time. I am notorious for starting books and never finishing them. Sometimes I literally read half of the book and then put it down because I want to start a new book. I admit this is odd, especially because I am someone who likes to finish things.

I like to get things done. Cross ’em off. Finish. Complete it. Done.

I like when my laundry basket is empty because all of my clothes are clean. I like when I can thrown away a post-it note because the task is done. I like the feeling of finishing grading a stack of English papers. And I like when I can walk away from a day with a sense of completion.

If I am honest I sometimes wish I could finish navigating the world of being in my mid-twenties. I want to check off trying to figure out what to do next or how to make the right decision. Sometimes I wish I could be done with dating and wondering what will happen next. I know deep down that life is about enjoying the process and being grateful for where God has me, but I am finding its hard for me to live with things undone, uncertain, and incomplete.

One of my favorite college professors used to give us permission in her class not to finish the assigned reading (imagine that?) She would literally tell us if something grabs your attention–pause, listen to it, re-read it. This seems counterintuitive, I know! But my professor wanted us to go slowly, rather than plow through something for the sake of finishing it. She had the wisdom and foresight to introduce me to the art of incompletion.

I think I can readily embrace the “art of incompletion” when it comes to my book-reading habits, the harder task is learning what this looks like in the rest of life.

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