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Sometimes the main thing isn’t the main thing

March 13, 2019 3 min read

I haven’t done a lot of work recently.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been working and checking off things from my to-do list, but more than not, these last few weeks have been filled with stops and starts. They’ve been the kinds of days and weeks when what seems the main thing is not the main thing.

As I write this, one of my very best friends is across from me. We’re at Braverly on a busy Saturday afternoon, and she is graciously giving me the space to check off a few things from my list. This friend travelled all the way from Indiana to visit me, and it still feels like a dream that she is here, that we have spent the last few days navigating Bangkok traffic, biking through Mae Sot, eating my very favorite foods in town. It seems like a dream that she spent the time and money to step into this world and life that I love so very much.

Last month, my parents stepped away from their lives to step into mine, and at the end of this month, two more friends from Indiana will do the same. And as much as I love these visitors, I’ve found myself a little at war with the Northern Indiana Kate inside of me.

I was raised in a culture that worships hard work. People in Northern Indiana bow to the idol of a good work ethic, of working hard and working late, of getting things done. We are self-made people, the “pull-yourself-up-by-your-boot-straps” kind of people. We like the kind of tangible results you can hold in your hand.

These last few weeks have held very little that is tangible. They’ve held more conversations than to-do lists. They’ve held more moments of doing life together than working late. I think life needs both the hard work and the life together, but these days, I’m more grateful for these moments of conversation and life-on-life moments and the space for exploration.

Here’s what I’ve learned–sometimes what seems like the main thing is not the main thing.

Sometimes the most important thing isn’t to check off things from the to-do list or stress over deadlines. Sometimes the most important thing isn’t to work late, work tirelessly, work until you can’t work anymore. And when we mistake these things for the most important things all the time, we miss the beautiful and holy that surround us–like people, like relationships, like the things you can’t measure, like the things that never stick to a deadline.

These days the most important thing has looked like sitting with my parents at the border so they could see No Man’s Land for themselves. It has looked like baking with my mom and our women at Braverly. It has looked like sharing the story of the book project with my very best friend. It has looked like having honest and vulnerable conversations about the book’s content and being surprised by the way our dialogue leads to richer writing. It has looked like biking through town with my sweet friend, sweating through our clothes in the near 100 degree temperature. It has looked like introducing people I love from the States to people I love from Thailand and Burma and beyond.

Sometimes what seems like the main thing isn’t the main thing.

So these days I’m not getting much done on my to-do list. Even writing this blog post has taken much longer than it should have because of distractions. But these distractions, I’m learning, are not always bad. More times than not, they are gifts, things that will slip away in a moment if I don’t recognize them.

These days, I’m looking for those moments, those distractions, those incredible, beautiful, holy gifts.

These moments, they are the main thing in this season.

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