Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's About Time

In the nick of time.  Running out of time.  All the time in the world. Time marches on.  Killing time.  Time is of the essence.  Time management.  Time flies.

Maybe it’s because of the recent winter Olympic games that I have become more aware of time.  Everything is measured in time: how fast a certain event is completed, how long an event lasts, how long until the event begins.  And to think that the difference between earning a medal and not getting an Olympic medal can be one-tenth or one-hundredth of a second!  Talk about every fraction of every second really counting!  It’s easy to think that one (literally: one) second of my life is a mere drop in the bucket and doesn’t mean a whole lot…but tell that to the fourth place Olympian who didn’t take home a medal where that one second made all the difference.  Or the 9-11 story of someone who didn’t make their plane because they were running a couple minutes late.

Time is a funny thing.  It can be embraced or despised, depending on the situation.  Seven days of vacation can bring relaxation, fun and smiles.  Seven days left to live for one with a terminal illness can bring heartache, fear and tears.  Forty-eight hours “living it up” in Manhattan versus forty-eight hours of labor.  There are many instances when we cannot control the time allotted or the circumstance.  But how about when we CAN dictate our time?

I am convinced that the average person tends to fall into one of two basic categories regarding the use of time.  People either waste loads of time and rarely get anything accomplished or they cram far too much into a short amount of time.  In either situation, time is not respected.  I am guilty of the latter issue—ten pounds of “stuff” jammed into a box with a five-pound weight limit.  My life often feels like it’s bursting at the seams, where one activity flows into another.  In many schools, the kids are given five minutes of “passing time” to get from one class to the next.  I barely allow that in my life as I’m running from one thing to the next, often dragging my family with me.

As I write thing, I wonder, “What IS my problem?”  I know I am busy pretty much all the time, but is that the best thing for my life?  How many of the bazillion things I do have eternal value?  Am I spinning my wheels, going no where?  It’s all over once I leave this earth…time is meaningless after that.  (And honestly, I just can’t get my head around eternity.)  Am I judicious in how I use my time or am I exhausting myself on the useless?  William Penn is credited as saying, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”

Here’s a little time test:

1) Is my whole day thrown off if I experience a scheduling tragedy? Including, but not limited to: a long freight train, a flat tire, a puking child, a too-long conversation with someone in the grocery store, a doctor appointment running late, a dropped plate resulting in broken glass everywhere, etc.  (The plate thing happened as we were walking out the door for vacation…glass in my purse and in my bag of maps, not to mention ALL over the kitchen and dining room.)

2) Do I allow any time in my day to get into God’s Word and feed the spiritual part of me?  (And, not just the last two minutes of the day before falling into bed, practically unconscious!)

3) Am I afraid to say “no” thereby filling up every available inch on my calendar and every minute in each day?  (What would “they” think if I said no when the day and time is free on my calendar?!?!)  I now see the importance of a little card my mom had taped to the wall near the phone when we were little kids.  It said, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”  This card was her script when asked to add even more to our family calendar once is was full enough.

4) Do I have to schedule fun?  A spur-of-the-moment trip to the zoo is almost unheard of!  If it’s gonna happen, it better be on the calendar and many weeks in advance!  My kids STILL talk about the spontaneous thing we did last year.  We ran to the local grocery store to pick up a prescription, and we saw that across the road, a garbage truck’s load of garbage was on fire.  When I was in the store getting the medicine, I also grabbed a bag of cookies.  After we all piled into the van to leave, I drove to the far end of the parking lot to get a good view of the garbage truck fiasco, handed out the cookies and we watched the incident unfold for the next 30 minutes.  The kids loved it and it was a fun story to tell.

You may not want to know how often I miserably fail this test!  Sitting down to read a good book is almost the only thing about which I don’t feel guilty.  I used to have a schedule worse that a newborn!  I would stay up way too late to “get everything done” only to be too tired to get up at the right time in the morning, thereby messing up my day and causing me to stay up too late to try to get everything done.  Talk about a cycle doomed from the start!  Talk about crooked thinking!

In reality, will any of us ever get everything done?  Um, no! Sometimes I need to step back and wonder how hard I am fighting a non-winnable battle.  I need to give myself a realistic number of achievable goals for the day, then STOP.  And, “cleaning the house” is not one achievable goal!  I knew I had problems when my to-do list looked more like a research paper outline than an actual get-it-done list.  To-do lists should not have subsections!

The hard part is that it’s all GOOD stuff on my calendar and in my life.  What’s so bad about park district activities, baking 300 cookies for the cast of the play, going to four grocery stores to get the best deals, hosting three luncheons in one week, being the team secretary, organizing play dates, etc?  It’s not like I’m adding “cheat, steal and rob” to my list!  Or, am I?  Am I cheating my family of precious time together since we’re always running out to do something else?  (For some reason, they’ve stopped considering it quality time together.)  Am I stealing away any “down time” that we probably need?  Am I robbing my health by being too busy to de-stress and unwind?  I heard a pastor once say, “A GOOD thing becomes a BAD thing when it takes the place of the BEST thing.”  Are my choices the BEST thing for my life?  My family?  My marriage?  My dad picked a ring tone for when I call his cell phone and it’s the Beach Boys song “I Get Around.”  Funny or sad?  The stay-at-home mom title makes me wonder where the stay-at-home part went.

I remember being struck by an obvious truth that I read in Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book Lies Women Believe.  She said that everyone has been allotted the same amount of time in every day…24 hours.  If we can’t get it all done, then we’re doing more than God has called us to do!  Obviously, this isn’t talking about things like the laundry and dishes.  Believe me, thinking, “Since I can’t ever fully catch up in either area, then God must not want me to do it!” isn’t correct thinking.  Fun, yes.  Correct, no.

We all worship. We were created to worship; to adore.  How is my time being spent?  What does it indicate I worship?  I say one thing and yet how I use my time proves another.  Am I worshipping at the altar of busyness?  Am I allowing any still time so I can crowd out the world and hear what God would ask I do with my life?  “BE STILL, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) is one of the hardest commands for me to obey!  Being still does not equal laziness!  And being still in the hours that I am asleep doesn’t count as taking the initiative to BE STILL in obedience.  Being still allows us to rest in His strength.  To be refreshed.  To hear from God.  To recharge.  To worship.  Every minutes of our lives DOES count—it counts for something.  That “something” is where I need to make wiser choices.

The world will not come to an end if I say “NO” to something for the health and happiness of my family.  After all, I need to have the time to say “YES” to garbage truck fires!

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