Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Time is Ticking...Today

Several weeks ago, my husband and I were having a typical late night supper with a few members of my church praise band at one of our favorite hangout spots in Topeka. We were laughing, joking, and just enjoying great conversation, as always.  The guitarist, John, who happens to be a dear friend of ours for over 14 years now, asked me sincerely about an item in my life for which he knows I have been praying.  I shared that I still needed prayer and advice because this particular thing had begun to suck my energy, time, and joy to a level that was no longer profitable.  The "item" isn't important.  What is important is what my friend said in response.

John randomly asked me what the average life-expectancy has been for the elders in my family, and thus, how long I expected to live (barring no unexpected, early interventions by God).  I told him that with my family history of stroke, heart attacks, cancer, and the like, I am guessing that I will live to be about 85 (if everything goes reasonably well).  Then he did the mathematics on my current age and alerted me to the fact that I have lived more than half my life (thanks for that tidbit, friend)!  Next, he pulled out his calculator (yes, he actually carries a calculator in his wallet--I call him, "George Costanza" with his "organizer" wallet), and told me that I only have 2,184 weekends left in my life.  In true and typical form, John humorously coined this as his, "morbid calculation."  He concluded his point with this question, "So...how do you really want to spend those 2,184 weekends?  Wasting your time on [insert "item" here], when it brings you little joy, zaps your energy, and takes time away from Matt?"  Case in point.  But it hit me like a ton of lead...2,184 weekends left...seriously?  Where has my life gone?  Where is it going?  (Side note:  This conversation was at least a month ago, so now I only have 2,180 left. Whew, those four went by quickly)!  Though the point he made was perfect and brought everything into focus more clearly, it also kind of stung a bit.  I hear elderly people constantly say, "Life sure goes fast...especially the older you get."   But that phrase seemed to keep playing over and over in my head as I pondered the fact that I recently passed the halfway point of my life-expectancy without even realizing it.  Ignorance is bliss...

Now I don't plan to have some major mid-life crisis over the situation.  I say all the time that if the Good Lord decided to come back today, I wouldn't be happier--and I mean it.  I try my level best to keep one foot in this world and one foot in the next where my real life will be.  Eternity is a heck of a lot longer than 85 years, so it behooves us all to focus a bit more on it than on the here and now.  But the reality of being left with 2,184 weekends was just unreal to me.  I am a bit of a numbers person.  If my checkbook is even a penny off, I WILL find the penny.  So putting my life to me in numbers was pretty effective.  I knew at that minute that I needed to remove the "item" from my life as best as I could.  (Another side note:  God actually ended up taking care of the item for me--and in only a couple of weeks!  Prayer is powerful!).  John concluded the discussion and said, "There are two commodities in life--time and money.  Money, you can sometimes get back.  But time is limited, and I'm not allowing anything or anyone to waste mine."  Wise advice.  You hear people say all the time that time IS money.  The more I think about all that, the more I realize that time is actually much more valuable than money--once it is gone, it's gone.

So what do I want to do with my 2,184 weekends (ah hem...correction, 2,180)?  I want to be in church as many Sundays as I possibly can, serving and using my gifts for my Lord and His glory, and fostering a walk with God that enables me to live wisely in every other domain of my life.  God's Word says that the only things that will last or be of any genuine value in heaven are the things we do in the name of the Lord for His glory and Kingdom.  I want to nourish my marriage and enjoy every minute with Matt that I can.  I want to foster great relationships with my daughter, my son in-law, and other extended family and friends.  I want to take care of the things God has given me and be a good steward of those things.  I want to balance work, ministry, and play in such a way that brings joy and wise investment to my life and my future.  I want to stay physically healthy and work to stay in reasonably good shape to hopefully get those 2,180 weekends!

That conversation with my friend has entered my mind literally a hundred times since we had it (thanks, JB).  It has helped me to streamline my life in an entirely new way.  It has also eliminated the guilt I was having in my struggle to rid my life of wasteful items.  If you're a recovering people-pleaser and perfectionist like me, you are always thinking you should be able to do all things, do all things for all people, and do all those things perfectly.  John's morbid calculator has helped me put many things through the litmus test of, "Is this truly a good use of my very limited time?  Is this item honestly taking me where I want to be later?  Does God REALLY want this in my life?"  Time is a tricky thing.  We always feel like we have plenty of it.  In actuality, we don't have much at all. 

So what things are you avoiding doing or avoiding ceasing to do that you will one day regret?  Time is ticking...and you have a choice.  Everything you allow or disallow into your life is ultimately your choice.  What person do you need to go to and apologize?  What energy-drainers do you need to toss out with your weekly trash?  What addiction(s) or sin(s) are you ignoring that are causing harm to your life, your peace, your joy, and/or your relationships? Is what you are doing today driving you along the path to where you really want to be later?  With what friend do you need to reconnect or reconcile?  Who do you need to just forgive in your heart and then let go permanently?  What things and people do you need to remove from your life because they are a waste of your time?  Who are the people that are causing you to stumble, or robbing you of your peace and joy--and therefore, need immediate removal (or added distance)? What dream or vision has God given you that you are avoiding pursuing because of laziness, doubt, or fear?  Most importantly, are you avoiding GOD, thinking you will take care of your business with Him later when you feel like it?  Later may not come--and if I waited to do things until I felt like it, I would rarely accomplish anything.

Another pitfall of "later," is that the longer we wait to do something, the harder it becomes to do it.  I have noticed at times, when I wait too long to do something I need to do, the situation has often morphed in ways that make it much more difficult to handle or navigate.  Sometimes, the results even change because of the time that has passed.  For best results, act immediately.  For better results, act now!

The best verses I can think of for this blog post are:  James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you," and James 4:14, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."  So basically, we know two things:  One, life is a vapor.  Two, if we want to live it wisely, we need to go to God.  It's pretty simple really.  I pray that as you read this you will begin to feel conviction by God that you have urgent business at hand for your limited days and weekends ahead.  We all do.  The list of urgent "add" and "remove" items will look differently for everyone.  Some will actually be pretty easy...some won't be.  You may be thinking, "I'm already too late...I'm too old, too tired, too useless, too done."  If you are awake, breathing, and reading this, you are far from done.  Maybe you even think your clock is not in your control...or worse, you think it's broken.  Friend, as long as the sun keeps rising and you keep breathing, the clock is still ticking and it is still your clock!  I personally believe that if we seriously want to correct something(s) in our life, and we truly go to God repeatedly and sincerely, He WILL show us what to do and how to do it.  God is the ultimate time-giver and He hates seeing time wasted (essentially, lives wasted).  He gave you this life and desires for you to live it to the very fullest with Him, with others, and with yourself!  But it takes willingness, persistence, patience, and belief to seek Him and get answers or help.  It will also take some evaluation and maintenance because once you get your life rollin' on the right track, be assured--someone or something will come along and throw you off-kilter again.  Get quiet before God and let Him speak to you.  You will never make wise choices, feel peace, and get real answers for decisions in your life if you are constantly drilling outside, worldly stimuli into your head and drowning out God (which, by the way, is also your choice).  But God is always there.  He is right there today, beckoning you to Himself.  Will you go?  Will you let the Great Counselor counsel you?  Do you want to see real change in your life and live out your 2,000 +/- weekends to the fullest?  We all have the natural tendency to say, "I'll deal with those things tomorrow."  There may not be a tomorrow.  So let's make tomorrow, today.  God bless you all!