During the holidays, our home, like many, is a flurry of activity. One of the things I love about the holidays is all of the special things the girls and I do together. I especially love it when we are all in the kitchen together dodging one another trying to get our special dishes cooked. For several years, each of the girls has taken on a particular dish for the holiday meal, and sometimes that led to way too many desserts. This year through a comedy of errors, I ended up cooking almost all of the Thanksgiving meal alone. Rachel & Caroline were able to help a little, and Lindsay did make the pumpkin pies, but they were unable to prepare all that they normally do. Early in the day on Thanksgiving, I began to notice that I was slipping into discontentment. As I worked in the kitchen alone, I had a great deal of time to think about my attitude and began to realize that I had a choice to make. Was I going to play the martyr and make everyone feel guilty for all the work I had to do, or was I going to put off the selfish feelings I was having and serve my family with gladness?
As I stood at my sink washing dishes I began to think about time. Whose time was it I was spending at my sink and stove? When my feelings of discontentment were overtaking me, I felt that it was my time that was being taken from me. That I had my desires and wants too, so why should all of the work fall to me… why shouldn’t I be served. Then it hit me, I am blessed above measure to have the family I have. My daughters all love the Lord and desire to serve Him, my husband loves me and does all that he can to lead and provide for our family, at the same time throwing in a great deal of laughter along the way. The Lord further showed me that it’s not my time I’m giving… it’s His. Every moment of my day belongs to Him. If it is truly His, and He asks me to give it to someone else, who am I to complain about it? This may seem like a simplistic thought process, but it helped me greatly. When I put into perspective that I was serving Him, by serving my family, the discontentment went away. My heart became thankful when I realized I could serve my Lord while serving my family.
This last year has been a hard one for our family due to the girls’ illnesses, and one might think that bitterness and frustration could have easily taken hold… and you’d be right… it could have. The Lord has been merciful and allowed us to use this time of isolation to reflect and ponder. Pondering is a great thing that in our busy lives today we don’t really take the time to do. We always have some sort of sound pollution around us, be it the TV, music, or just chattering voices, so the silent thoughtful moments are nearly non-existent. I have come to greatly enjoy times of deep pondering as they allow me to sort out things, be they deep theological questions, or just simple everyday thoughts. I have come to see that busyness and constant input from artificial sources has robbed us of this.
All of this pondering has brought many questions to the forefront, causing me to question most everything we do in our lives. Some of this has been posted about here in the last few weeks, but there is much more I haven’t yet written about. Today I will just concentrate on time. In Eph 5:16 we are told to redeem the time because the days are evil. As Paul begins chapter 5 he tells us to be imitators of Christ, and a sacrifice to God. I could ponder all day on just those two thoughts, but I want to go ahead with the thoughts on time. In verses 3 -7 we are told what being an imitator of God/Christ is not, and then in verses 8-14, he tells us that now that we have the light and how to walk in the light. In verse 15 we are told to walk circumspectly, which means perfectly, or diligently; as the wise do. What is impressed upon me by this is that we are to have a purpose as we go along the way, not just meandering along. A vision of a Smurf dancing through a field with a basket singing, “La, la la….” comes to mind as to how we shouldn’t be. Conversely, we also shouldn’t have every minute planned.
In verse 16 we come to the verse on time that we hear so often quoted. I have seen this misapplied often using an overly strict interpretation. I have known people to be so strict in their schedule that they were greatly conflicted when ministry opportunities would arise. They didn’t see their unsaved neighbor knocking at their door as a ministry, but as a hindrance to their schedule. I have also seen this verse used in conjunction with the thought “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” To combat this, some will always be doing something “constructive”, which is laudable, unless we take it too far. The problem I have seen in this area is that work or activities become more important than people. I am all for visiting while you work, it makes the work pass more quickly, but there needs to be a balance. When you won’t take the time to give someone your undivided attention, whether it be your child or a guest, the message that is sent is, my work is more important than you are.
In this day of multi-tasking, this is becoming even more prevalent. We’re on our cell phone, while surfing the net, and talking to our children all at one time. I know that I find myself frustrated that when I’m driving, I can’t be accomplishing more. Though, I must say, here in Houston, we have many people combating that feeling everyday. I am trying to become more aware of this habit, as I am finding it difficult to give my girls 100% of my attention when they are trying to tell me something. I feel like I need to be doing something else as well. What message am I sending them when I do this? I am not referring to overdoing it as some parents do, but I should, if possible, stop doing what I am involved with, focus on them, and give them the same attention I want when I’m speaking to someone. I’m sure we’ve all been in the position where we didn’t feel like the person we were talking to was listening because they were watching TV while we tried to talk to them. My girls do know that there are times they must wait to talk to me, for instance, when I’m on the phone, or talking to someone else, but, unless I’m speaking to someone else, I should be willing to stop and listen to them. I find in examining myself, that the times I don’t do this, it is based on a selfish desire that I have, and that I’m not seeing things through the lens of God’s eyes.
We have all heard that we should give our money to God, but I think our time is as valuable, if not more. In the busyness of our lives, we protectively guard our time. We have become like Ebeneezer Scrooge, giving away what little time we can, trying to keep a great portion of it for ourselves. I can remember when Lindsay entered school and Sarah entered pre-school I thought, “Now I have both of the girls out of the house, and I can have my freedom!” How wrong I was! I look back on that time with such regret; if I had only listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit I could have spared Lindsay a great amount of pain, but through my selfishness, she suffered. The Lord taught me a hard lesson, and I learned a great deal of it quickly, but there are still times that the selfish Me-Monster will rear it’s ugly head. Selfishness in regard to time it a difficult beast to master. Especially in light of the fact that the world and the church are often telling us to feed that desire for self.
Jay Adams makes a great point that sheds some light on the mis-teaching of self-love that has been proclaimed in most churches. I can remember hearing this teaching when I was a teenager, up through recent years. It is a dangerous teaching, and has caused many problems within the body of Christ.
“Moreover, in order to square the Bible with Maslow’s thought, many declared that there are three great commandments: to love God, neighbor, and self. Self-love is presupposed in the command to love others as one already loves himself. There is no need to learn self-love; we have too much of it already. Our problem is to learn to love our neighbor in the same way.
Indeed, to posit three commandments (the third non-commandment being more basic than the other two since one supposedly cannot love others until he learns to love himself) directly clashes with Jesus’ words, “On those two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22: 40). In the context Jesus also distinctly refers to a first and second commandment, but never to a third”
I have heard many times that we need to “love ourselves” before we can love others. I agree with Adams, we love ourselves quite enough already… my problem is learning to set my love for myself aside so that I can show true love to others.
Time is a gift the Lord has bestowed on us just as He has salvation, health, life, family, and money. We tend to not recognize it as such, or if we do, we don’t value it as we should. It is so easy to allow time to pass without thinking about the things of the Lord, or doing the things that bring honor and glory to Him. In one of my recent ponderings, I was remembering how a church I used to attend had offering envelopes that every member received at the beginning of the year. On the envelope, there were some boxes you were supposed to check: Tithe, Bible read daily, Worship attendance, Sunday School attendance, and there were boxes to write in how many people you contacted during the week. They also gave you a quarterly devotional to help you out with your daily Bible reading. As I was thinking about this, I thought of how many people checked their little boxes, and then never thought about what they had read or heard again during the week. That is our nature, we like neat little boxes and checklists that tell us what to do. As a list-maker, I love them. It would be so easy for me to have a checklist of right and wrong or activities that I could check off. Then I could feel pleased with myself for accomplishing all that was required of me. There’s the real crux of all of this, I would be pleased with myself… not God… no need to lean on Him for guidance. I find that the more questions I ask and more direction I need, the more I lean on God.
I’d like to challenge you to take some time and do some pondering. While you are folding clothes or washing dishes is great pondering time. Find an area of your life that you see needs some work, and give it real thought. It is amazing what the Lord will show you, if you just give Him a little of your time.