Happy New Year! It’s that time of year when we reflect on what we learned in 2012 and form resolutions for 2013. As I look back on the past year, I realized I have learned a lot about time management. As the mother of two young children, I have struggled with the lack of free time in my life. Even before marriage and children, I’ ve always been one of those personalities who like to be busy and always have a to-do list, so I suppose I’ve never had a lot of free time. However, the to-do list and priorities usually centered on what I needed to do or what I wanted to do. Having children completely rocked my world because I rarely accomplish anything on my to-do list or get even a brief moment to re-charge my batteries because my little ones never seem to sleep at the same time. My 2012 schedule consisted of racing home from work to eat a quick lunch while at least one child was hanging on my leg, then immediately trying to get one down for a nap just in time for the other to wake up and need mama’s undivided attention. I was exhausted by late afternoon, especially when I was cooking dinner with one baby on my hip and the other hanging on my leg (again), and my goal was just to survive until bedtime.
Have you ever felt that way? Or maybe for you it is the frustration of being stuck in traffic and losing valuable time, or having a project at work dropped on you at the last minute requiring you to cancel your weekend plans, or a chatty friend or relative who pulls you into a long telephone conversation right as you’re headed out the door. It’s easy to end up frustrated by losing valuable time because maintaining control over the day is impossible. Unfortunately, this frustration robs of us of our joy, and we fail to appreciate the fleeting moments with our children, we fail to notice our Creator’s beautiful earth because we’re focused on a traffic jam, or we fail to be thankful for having a job in the first place. But the truth is, life is unpredictable! Time pressures and unpredictability can arise in a job, volunteer work, family needs, and a spiritual life, and I came to realize I needed more than time management, I needed an attitude adjustment.
You see, I was approaching the day all wrong. I was going in with the assumption that the day was mine and the hours were mine to order and direct. Sure, I would pray for the Lord’s direction and leading, especially on big decisions and time commitments. But somewhere deep down, I was operating under the belief that if I gave a part of my day to prayer and to the Lord, part of my day to my family, part of my day to other obligations, then what was left belonged to me to do with as I wished. Do you ever treat your obligations like an imposing tax and consider your volunteer commitments as a generous donation? It is only natural because isn’t that what the world teaches? The world tells us, “Put yourself first, and everything else will fall into place.” “You deserve a break.” “You’re a better mom when you make time for yourself first.” We’ve all heard these words, and while there may be some truth in them, the truth is ineffective because they are couched in the lie that our time is our own.
In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis poignantly wrote, ”Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life [man] can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. . . . [N]othing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. . . . They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.”
I read those words and was immediately convicted. How often have I allowed my mood to nose dive when one of my children woke too early from a nap? And was it just the other week that I was volunteered by someone else without my permission, and I went about the task begrudgingly because it interfered with my other plans? Now, I’m not advocating we should be doormats or never say “no”. I also know we all need time to rest (and the Lord knows this too, hence the reason he made Sabbath rest one of the Ten Commandments). However, we should approach the day with the realization that each day is a gift from the Lord, not our “own personal birthright.” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters). As Lewis says, “The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell. . . . And all the time the joke is that the word ‘Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything.”
Therefore, I am challenging myself this year to make God’s priorities my priorities, His goals for my life my New Year’s resolutions. I challenge you to do the same. His plan for my day may change hour to hour, but since I am in His service, the unpredictability should not rattle my expectations because I am not entitled to expectations. Any presumption that time is my own is just prideful and leads to disappointment and disillusionment. In the same way money and possessions are not my own, I am simply the Lord’s steward. My children are not my own, they belong to the Lord, and He has generously allowed me to be their earthly caretaker. This same principle carries over into every facet of life, not just time.
Thankfully, Jesus provides us with a good example of how to approach matters in life over which we humans try to stake a claim: he prayed “yet not my will but yours be done.” Luke 22:42. Therefore, rather than chasing after time or things to call your own, may you remember to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33.
Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy: http://www.graphicsfairy-diy.com/2012/06/time-for-beautiful-mantel.html