"Do the Next Thing." Even if it's just washing the dishes. Or running a comb through your hair. For me, a few nights ago, the next thing was to make some nutritious food. I didn't want to. Nourishing myself when I'm having a rough time becomes a monumental and unpalatable task. Then I remembered, Do the next thing. And I did. I made roasted delicata squash, hamburger fry-up, and an arugula salad. I ate it. I thought, That's enough. I did the next thing. I didn't want to do the dishes. I wanted to go to bed and read mind-numbing, heart-numbing stuff. Again I thought, Do the next thing. I did the dishes. It was just one thing, that next thing. I might have gone to bed to read after eating a snack of cheese, nuts, and a carrot instead of a real meal. But I could get myself to do just the next thing. One thing.
Earlier that day I'd read a blog post by one of my childhood heroes–Elisabeth Elliot. The books I read as a child were either classic children's literature or books about missionaries. I had read the biography of Nate Saint who, with Elliot's husband Jim were missionaries killed in the Amazon by people they'd hoped to convert. A friend I know only on Facebook had shared Elisabeth Elliot's post about all the things she had to do to keep their mission station going after her husband's death–things she wasn't trained to do.Things she had to do while she must have been grieving and frightened. She wrote that she got through them by doing the next thing.
Sometimes doing the next thing is all we can do. But often after I do the first next thing, it seems much less daunting to do the second next thing. Sometimes not, and that's okay. So it's only the next thing. But sometimes there is momentum, and the movement helps to shift whatever was making everything seem so hard. So if I'm hurting or depressed or overwhelmed, it helps to remember, Do the next thing.
Elisabeth Elliot found those words in an old Saxon poem, where they were spelled "Doe the next thynge." I like that spelling. The poem also said to do it reliantly, do it with reverence, and to leave all the resultings. I like those ways of doing the next thing, too–consciously, with conscience, not worrying about the outcome. If it's the dishes, do the dishes. If it's watering the plants, do that. If it's writing a blog post, write it, girlfriend. There is satisfaction in accomplishing even those small tasks, and that satisfaction sometimes lightens the heavy load I'm carrying in that moment. You don't have to do all the things. Just the next one.