“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)
In early elementary, two of my daughters enrolled in a local gymnastics program. Their introduction to the balance beam began with simply walking across a beam on the floor. The height was gradually raised until it was several feet off the floor. Initially, they took small steps, then larger, and eventually would even leap. Sometimes they would slip, but often completed a leap. Occasionally, distraction would sneak in and I’d spot them over-—or underestimate a step and nearly fall. Their success depended on stability and focus.
Like my daughters on the balance beam, there are days when I can seamlessly complete big tasks and other days, a small task distracts and overwhelms me. I lose focus. I try to neatly compartmentalize my life and maintain a schedule. I write a to-do list to keep me on track, but find myself often wondering, am I managing my time well? Maybe you can relate.
The beginning of a new year is often marked with resolutions and goal-setting. We reflect on the past year and look at what we accomplished and what we don’t want to repeat. Often, those reflections are used as a starting point for the new year. We may weigh our options and try to manage our time efficiently. There are the urgent things to do like getting ready for trips and going to the bank before it closed; ordinary necessities like grocery shopping, laundry, exercise, and writing to meet a deadline; and those critically important things like Bible study and spending time with my family. Time seems to evaporate.
The Bigger Question
The bigger question on my heart has become, do I stop to consider who I am becoming as I use my time? The opportunity of a new year with blank pages ought to mean more than filling them with goals and target dates. It’s an opportunity to personally change and grow in Christ-like character and purpose.
So in light of this, what is the standard for having a balanced, well-managed life? Our search begins with knowing who we are. Created by God as a unique woman, each one of us also has a unique purpose, and God-given gifts and responsibilities. The same spiritual gift looks different on different people, as does the same calling. For instance, the calling of a Mom on one looks different from another because your kids, backgrounds, energy levels, families, resources, opportunities, and talents differ. Because of the vast variety in God’s Kingdom, our goals and time management will certainly be different.
Too often, we get tripped-up in comparing ourselves with others. When we use others as our standard for balance, rather than God’s perspective, we can feel that we are not measuring up. Like my daughters who, at times, lost focus on the beam, we too can get off balance. When we remember how God sees us, we can properly orient our plans and goals. In cultivating an intimate relationship with Him, we will learn what He wants to do in us and through us.
Jesus invites us, “Come. Let Me be the focus of your heart’s intent.”
But what does that mean practically speaking? To begin establishing new patterns and rhythms for a more balanced approach to your time, I encourage you to first think about your schedule for the past twenty-four hours. How did you choose to use your time and energy? Were those moments born from communion with Jesus and a heart for His purposes?
James 1:5 tells us, “If you lack wisdom, ask God.” As we consider our daily schedules, let’s remember that if we look to Him for guidance, He will provide the wisdom we need. May we seek Him for clarity on what we may need to eliminate, how we might be wasting time, how we could work smarter not harder, how to pursue things that will regenerate us, and how to develop meaningful time with Him. Pray for wisdom to know the value of what you are pursuing, and to have the courage to say no or yes, as He leads.
As part of seeking wisdom in a practical way, consider this exercise:
Make a list of all the responsibilities and activities you deal with in a given week. Include everything from washing dishes and having your quiet time with God, to time on social media.
Next, write a list of your dreams, joys, hobbies, and hopes—things that you’ve done or would like to do, but aren’t or can’t right now (for whatever reason).
Then get several highlighters and use a different color for each of the following:
— The things that you must do (e.g. Cook dinner, do laundry, go to church, go to work, visit your family, carpool).
— The things that you could delegate to someone else (e.g. encourage your preschooler to put his own toys away; pay someone to rake the leaves; if you are on a committee, someone else could do a task; order groceries online and have them delivered).
— The things that you could eliminate (e.g. watching a TV program or attending meetings of an organization; baking bread from scratch).
— The things you could decrease time doing (e.g. social media, texting).
— The things that regenerate you (e.g. taking time for a hobby, a playdate for your children so that you can have some time with a friend or free time, attending a Bible study or book club, weekend retreat).
— Those ‘good’ things that you like to do, but could be postponed for another season (e.g. quilting club, book club).
— Those things which have lasting value (e.g. reading to your children; attending a Bible study, time with your spouse and family, a ministry).
— The things that you dream about doing and would like to do.
— The things that you have been asked to do that for one reason or another you have either declined or agreed to do.
Prayerfully review your completed list. Is there one color that is prominent? Do you need to adjust, minimize, eliminate, or postpone? Do you see a picture emerging where you detect a need to prioritize, in order to reflect God’s priorities for your time? Do you see any opportunities to adjust your schedule for better time-management toward a more balanced life?
My balanced life won’t look like yours and yours won’t look like your friend’s, but each of us can have a life and schedule characterized by individual God-led purpose. Ultimately, it is God’s time we are seeking to properly manage. If we maintain our focus on Him and estimate the value of our activities from His perspective, we can move forward on our unique beams with stability and confidence.
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