Filled Up Lives
Admit it, you have been known to blink the a.m. crusties out of your eyes and respond to the call of your accumulated notifications even before you answer the pressing call of nature. You are not alone. Your priorities may not be completely rational, but you are not alone. Apparently, as a culture, we think it a reasonable assumption that something may have happened during the night which is so critical to the next two minutes that it just can’t wait; with more than one urgency calling for our attention, we may even try to multitask and end up being one of the supposed 19 percent of people who will at some point lose their phones to a watery porcelain grave. Gross.
Are we so busy that this behavior is honestly necessary? Babink! Someone commented on your post. Ding! Reminder: Dentist Appt. 2pm. Tweep! You received fifteen texts. A midway of activities are lined up to vie for our time and the blinking lights and sounds of incessant notifications draw our attention away from whatever we are currently doing—around and around we reel. All this tilt-a-whirlish distraction results in many hours spent and pockets emptied but doesn’t really pay it forward if you know what I mean. It sells itself like cotton candy: voluminous mass masking vacuous substance, and ladies, we are buying. Our social media feeds and cram-packed calendars fill up our moments, but don’t fill out our lives—not really.
Busy is easy. Diligence is hard. Busy happens almost on its own. Wise diligence will often keep our hours full, but it is activity with purpose. When we are finding it difficult to maintain a steady focus we are not without things that will help us.
Busy with Things that Matter
One thing we can know for certain is that what we do matters. The Lord is completing a work in us and as He does He is also using us to complete His work here on earth:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.—Ephesians 2:10
That means He’s got stuff for us to do—good stuff, useful stuff. This stuff doesn’t save us, but it was prepared for us to do by the One who did save us—perhaps it’s worth turning our attention to. One of the happy results of Christ’s work on our behalf is that we now have the power of the Spirit in our lives continually remaking us from bad to good. We are not only going to go to a good place one day, but we are able to do good work now to remake the world for the glory of God. Our efforts on this planet are not employed with trembling fear that we will not be good enough, but with awestruck gratitude for the good work of Christ on our behalf. Amen?
This leaves us wondering how we can exit the carnival, dismiss the taskmaster of the tyranny of the urgent, and make sure our moments matter? As much as we may wish it, there is no miraculous calendar app or easy checklist system to tell us exactly how we should be spending our moments, and frankly I don’t think our main problem is a lack of organizational tools. With or without the latest time management tools, we need a baseline to help us prioritize our busyness so that we become people who apply ourselves to doing the good stuff God has prepared for us to do instead of people who fritter away our hours in vacuous busyness. Two things have become a constant help to me as I consider how to spend my time.
Know your purpose.
Women often live for self-fulfillment or self-empowerment; they strive for fame or fortune or the perfect body. Sadly, no matter how much time we spend in these pursuits, we will never escape what Solomon declared thousands of years ago, that without God all our activity, “is vanity and grasping for the wind.” All of it. The beautiful flip-side of this sobering fact is that with God there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven. So, if you’re with God, focus on your purpose.
Our fathers in the faith tell us that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Confession of Faith). I heartily agree with the ancients, but find this statement rather too general to direct my daily decisions. My go-to purpose statement is, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [food, shelter, clothing] shall be added to you.” This has some physical dimension to it. What am I supposed to be concerned about? The kingdom of God and righteousness. What should I not fret over? The things I am going to eat and drink and wear. This kind of purposeful thought pattern actually helps me filter my concerns and make decisions about where to invest my time and what types of activity to allow in my life. My ultimate purpose isn’t to get married or to build a career, though those things may play a part, it is to seek first the kingdom and righteousness. This makes for an odd looking calendar of activities at times as I sift through the opportunities available to me.
I have wasted an embarrassing amount of time aimlessly scrolling through Facebook. I have also used the same social medium to do useful work for ministries and causes that are important for the kingdom. If we are wasting our time with the tools we are given, we can chalk it up to user error not to an innate wickedness in the machines. My attention was recently drawn to the Apostle Paul’s words as he talked about his own work. He said,
I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air.—1 Corinthians 9:26
This has thoroughly intrigued me. Paul played to win. His strategy in his work for the Gospel didn’t include running in circles or wildly flailing about. He intended to land punches. We should be like Paul. We should know what we are spending time on and why. It isn’t always easy to determine if our activities are helps or hindrances in our pursuit of the kingdom and righteousness. Sometimes things that were useful for a time become a distraction instead and need to be pruned from our lives. Sometimes those nagging notifications keep us beating the air instead of landing punches. We must keep our eyes on the goal and develop a habit of deliberateness to direct our limited skills and resources into truly useful work.
Trust God to Establish It
Regardless of how well we have done at redeeming our time from the carnival of distraction, we must never forget that ultimately we are not the builders of great things and the doers of wonderful works—God is. The psalmist knew that without the Lord’s favor, his plans would come to nothing.
And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And establish thou the work of our hands upon us; Yea, the work of our hands establish thou.—Psalm 90:17
Our work in Christ’s kingdom involves us in something much larger than ourselves. We labor with the people of God putting our hands to His work while praying for His blessing, and in His time He will establish all the good works He prepared for us to do—all of which bring Him the glory due His name. We work heartily, we work humbly, we work with diligent reliance on His promise that He will work in us what is pleasing in His sight.