Majoring in Life
Moving toward a healthy attitude in the area of time management.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 20: No Time to Waste
(Counsel when caught in a red-eyed rush)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
Having survived the initial shock of separation from friends and family, I was ecstatic about being at Bible college. I had a bunch of new friends, soccer was one of the school's favorite sports, I was part of student council, and someone picked me for the yearbook staff. Called me a photojournalist. Life was grand, a revolving door of grunts on the soccer field and gabfests in the cafeteria lounge—between photo shoots and yearbook writing gigs, of course. No boring moments in my life. My days just flew.
In the midst of all this blinding activity, school assignments were a low priority.
Allow me a short flashback: As an A student in high school, I found homework a cinch. Every assignment, regardless of when the teacher handed it out, was completed the night before it was due. Ask my parents. No research, no rewrites. Rip it off, hand it in, take my A, thank you very much. It meant a few all-nighters, but, hey, school's kind of cool when experienced through the mental fog of a night with no sleep.
But now my college insisted on lights-out at 11:00 P.M. They enforced the rule with a crew of dorm proctors, students who hopefully had more integrity than I did at the time. No more all-nighters for me, at least in theory.
I had to do a 2,500-word paper for my Genesis teacher, a professor I really respected. The assignment was due—surprise, surprise—the next day. It was 7:00 P.M.—perhaps time to start thinking about tackling this project.
I tore in, but by 11:00 I wasn't even close to finishing. I had to write a decent paper. This professor wasn't going to be as easily scammed as some of my teachers in the past.
An evil thought entered my mind. I ran with it.
Swearing my roommate to secrecy, I took the blankets from my bed. With one I covered our window. With the other I sealed off the crack under our door. Then I turned the light back on, sat down, and kept working. I finished at 5:30 A.M., just in time to take a cold shower and head for breakfast.
"Did you hear what happened to Hamilton?"
Shaking the fog, I perked my ears.
"He was working all night on some Genesis assignment. Proctor caught him at two in the morning. That guy's campused, for sure."
My college was awesome, but it was also strict. "Campused" meant four hours of Saturday morning penal labor on the campus farm, followed by a weekend in the dorm. No social engagements allowed. Hearing the news about poor Hamilton, I felt bad. God's Spirit knocked on my heart's door. Insistently. Before the day was over, I confessed my truancy to both the men's dean and my Genesis professor. They appreciated my honesty but still felt the need to discipline me. I got campused and lost a grade on the paper I'd submitted.
That was my last all-nighter, for sure.
As I slugged away the next Saturday morning, mucking out calf pens, I decided it was time to take a new look at my use of time.
A Skewed Attitude
A quick search on Amazon.com reveals 1,641 books on the subject of time management. It is a perennially hot topic because people are always hungry for tips on "how to save time." Students, juggling the responsibilities of school, work, and an active social life, are some of the most frequent customers. If time hasn't become an issue for you, it soon will be. Wait until you discover the chilling thrill of finals week.
Having read several time-management books myself, I've come to a conclusion: The goal of "saving time" is inherently a selfish one. Think about it. What are we so eager to save time for? To go and have more fun, right? Right.
With unbridled fervor, we seek to multitask all the mundane aspects of life—dishes, homework, sleep, that oh-so-boring job—into one tight, efficient bundle, then get it all done in five minutes so we can get back to our driving purpose in life: more fun!
Admit it. We're addicted.
I enjoy computer games. I could vanish for a month in Rogue Spear, a tactical rescue game for SWAT fanatics. It seems kind of juvenile for an old man like me to even want to do something like that—the game's still wrapped in cellophane on my shelf, beckoning me—but realize this: I've been fed a long line for all my thirty-plus years of life: Fun is everything.
Am I knocking fun? Not per se. What I'm concerned about is seeing fun as the number-one push for rushing through all of life's other facets, as if a weekend at Six Flags or Canada's Wonderland were the true source of happiness. It isn't.
Would another of the devil's slogans help make the point here?
Thank God it's Friday.
Now that is a rotten attitude about time. As if Monday through Thursday were a complete waste of your existence. Is there no significance to having waited tables for three nights at Denny's, worked hard on two term papers, and washed seven days' worth of laundry? And what about all the other things you get done in a week? Is that all worth nothing? The devil would have you think so.
Hand in glove with this T.G.I.F. mentality comes the big hype that hits campus hallways every Monday morning. "What did you do over the weekend?" That question is loaded. If you didn't see The Producers on Broadway, go visit a friend on her personal yacht, or spend a couple of days at a European castle, you're labeled a boring Neanderthal. That is bogus. The pressure to have a social life that outshines that of Julia Roberts is going to run you ragged.
It's time to take a new look at this issue.
Moving Toward a Healthy Attitude
Even though a day has only twenty-four hours, there is enough time for all God wants you to do.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Read this slowly: God—doesn't—want—you—stressed—about—time. Every time you are, let that raise a red flag in your mind: I need an attitude adjustment, Lord. Where? He may use one of the following biblical principles to unshackle your thinking:
Give God your to-do list (Proverbs 16:3).
As you stare at that daunting date book, invest a little time asking your Father about each item. He'll gladly make some helpful suggestions: That one's absolutely unnecessary; scratch it off. You can leave that project for December. Call Janine; she'll help you with that problem. That job you'd better jump on. No matter how insignificant the task seems to you, God is truly interested in being part of it.
You have permission to say no (James 5:12).
Not every person who has cool ideas about how you should spend your time is sent by God. Don't bow to the pressure of saying yes to every invitation that comes your way. Be gracious about it, but learn to say no. They'll get over it.
Every day could use some gusto (Romans 12:11).
We all need a little more zeal, an extra shot of spiritual fervor, enabling us to move into life's demands at something faster than a slug's pace. Where this hits me is when I get dressed in the morning. It can take me half an hour to mosey my way into a pair of pants and a shirt. I'm a guy! Guys should be able to get dressed in five minutes! And with a squirt of God-given gusto, I do, freeing me to spend my time on more important things.
Your days are numbered (Psalm 90:12).
This simple realization can motivate you to squeeze the most out of every moment, trusting Jesus for wisdom as you go.
A good night's sleep is allowed (Psalm 127:2).
God wants you to enjoy deep rest more than once a month. If you're cutting yourself short to "save time," it'll cost you down the road. Think things through. Make a different sacrifice.
God wants to wean you.
"Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive" (1 Corinthians 10:23).
When it comes to fun, God is a whole lot more permissive than some unhappy (read: mildly constipated) people make him out to be. But with maturity you'll realize that fun isn't everything. The day you allow God to wean you from an addiction to fun, you'll have all kinds of time for the more beneficial, constructive aspects of life.
Balance is key (Proverbs 11:1).
Satan is always pushing you toward extremes, particularly in your use of time. Nine hours downloading music files from the Internet? You may want to rethink that. Learn the wholesome happiness of a balanced life, one that gives each of your God-given responsibilities its proper measure of attention. Be honest in how you weigh time.
Everything Jesus did was right on time (Galatians 4:4).
He would love to give you the same experience. Get to know him more; he'll show you how.