Monday, April 18, 2011
Making time for what matters
I don't consider myself an expert in time management, by any means. I regret squandering my youth on things like entertainment and other frivolous pursuits. And I'm sitting here at the computer right now! But lately, I've noticed more and more friends asking me how I can possibly have time to read the Bible in 90 days or to memorize the book of Colossians in a year. How I have time to homeschool my kids and be in two Bible studies. Time to go to church twice a week and time for exercise. Time to do the grocery shopping and make our meals from scratch, instead of eating out. You get the idea. We all know it's a matter of prioritization, but I have some thoughts to share on the subject.
1. We all do what we want to do. I borrowed this phrase from my husband. I think it's basically true. I've always marvelled at people who say they don't have time to exercise. I think those people must not enjoy being active. Since I love to be active, I love to exercise. Finding time isn't really an issue. People can make time for what's important to them. The real question is why wouldn't reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible be of the utmost importance for believers? Regeneration means we've been given new desires, godly desires. Yes, we still wage war with our flesh, but if we're children of God we should desire the things of God more than we desire the things of the world. If we desire God's Word more than the other things on our schedule, then we'll have time for it. On one level, it's that simple.
2. Live each day in light of eternity. I just loved reading and studying through the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn a few years ago. His ministry is called Eternal Perspectives Ministries and the name says it all. I'm convinced that if we really believed that either our death or Christ's return was imminent, that we would be highly motivated to spend as much time as possible reading, studying, and memorizing the Scriptures. Guess what? It is. Jesus may not return for another thousand years or longer, but our life on earth is like a vapor- here and gone. Just ask anyone over the age of 70 and they'll attest to this! Life flies by. Don't waste it. One of my husband's favorite quotes is by the Puritan Richard Baxter. It goes something like this: Reckon not on long life, but live as though dying. Isn't there a country and western song about that? Anyway, it's true. The main reason I quit working and began homeschooling a few years ago was that I sort of woke up and realized that if I knew I were going to die in a year, my life would be radically different than the one I was living. That's messed up. We should be living that life, the one we really want to live, the one we know we should be living, right now! Don't put off the life you want for another day.
3. When we focus on what matters, everything else just sort of fades in significance. I'm going to given an example here from my life. When I was growing up my parents didn't watch tv. Seriously, I know I probably grew up in one of the only households in America without cable, but my folks just never watched it. I felt deprived and went overboard in that area. When I first lived on my own, I had the tv guide practically memorized. I watched tv almost every minute I was at home. Yes, I lived alone, and I know many people say they just leave it on as background noise, but the fact remains I had a time consuming habit of watching lots of tv. If someone had asked me to give up watching tv for my faith, I probably would have tried and failed, or made up some justification for why I didn't need to quit. It would have seemed like a huge sacrifice. The neat thing is, no one asked me to give it up. I didn't even ask myself to give up tv. But I can't tell you the last time I turned the television on. When you stay busy doing more worthwhile things, you don't have time for television and it doesn't even tempt you. My mother always said, when you don't watch television, you have lots of time for everything else. I should have listened to my mother years ago!
I used tv as an example, but we Americans spend lots of time on nonessential activities (like working out or blogging : ). I call this majoring on the minors. We should be majoring on the majors. God's Word must be a priority in our lives and if it's not, we should be concerned about whether we really belong to the Lord. Once we've fit the big things into our lives we can add in the non-essentials.
4. Get used to being sleepy! There may be some people who walk around feeling refreshed and well-rested all the time, but I don't think it's the norm for people who accomplish a lot. My dad, who is a lawyer, used to joke about what a respite prison would be- no clients to have to keep happy or phone ringing off the hook, just all that time to read (and play war games in his case.) He was only joking, but the point is my parents never got to sleep as much as they would have liked to and neither do I. I go through life in sort of a half daze. You get used to it. I'm only half joking! I once worked in the lab of a man who was both a pediatric neurooncologist and had a PhD in Genetics and ran a big lab at a major medical center. The guy slept like 4 hours a night. I've heard Al Mohler sleeps less than that. My point is not that we should sacrifice our health for our careers, but that 7 hrs sleep and reading the Bible an hour a day is better than 8 hrs sleep and not reading the Bible an hour a day. You might be able to get by on 6.5 hrs. It's been my experience that the amount of sleep I seem to need fluctuates according to my habits. (My mom always says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. She was right about tv. I bet she's right about habits, too!)
5. Multi-task! I had a friend in college who used her daily commute to pray. I always keep my Bible and Bible study in the car in case I find myself waiting on the kids and have time to study. I workout at the gym where my kids swim during their practice time since I'm there anyway. I keep a double stroller and the kids' scooters in the back of my vehicle so we're always ready for a last minute trip to the park. When stewing chicken for one meal, I usually go ahead and stew enough for multiple meals. We listen to Psalms while we drive. You get the idea. With a little planning, you can get more done in less time. My daily time devoted to memorizing Colossians is when I take a bath each night! The kids and I enjoyed listening to Cheaper by the Dozen a few weeks ago. I love that their dad was an efficiency expert and always tried to do away with what he called "unavoidable delay". In that regards, he was a man after my own heart. He had his kids learning French and German in the bathroom, I'm learning Colossians! Lots of times the kids and I listen to a book on CD while eating lunch. Hey, we're even learning geography while praying for a different country of the world each day. All it takes is an extra 20 seconds to have the kids each find the country on the map then I read a bit about the country before we pray for it.
6. If all else fails, pray. My mom quoted Elizabeth Elliot the other day who said, "In any situation, the most we can do is pray." Not the least we can do, the most we can do. If you're already doing all the things I mentioned and you still don't have time to add some important activities, pray and ask the Lord to make time in your schedule for what He wants you to do. When we can no longer juggle our many activities, and we begin dropping the ball so to speak, the Lord is able to pick them up and carry them for us. I love how Paul describes his labors within the church as "striving according to His working which works in me mightily." So we do the striving, but God is working in us all the while to accomplish His purposes. All that we accomplish is by His power and His grace. To God be the glory!
How do you make time for what matters most to you? How have your priorities shifted in recent months or years?
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.