The spiritual exercise of time management
Imagine that someone gave you the gift of $86,400. They deposited it directly into your bank account. You are allowed to spend the money any way you want and the next day they will give you another $86,400 and so on every day of your life. There is only one rule; you must spend all $86,400 each day. There are no carry-overs, anything that you don’t spend you lose.
Do you think you could find a way to spend $86,400 every day? Maybe you’re off to a good start on it already!
Each day you are given a precious gift. Each day you are given 86,400 seconds, to live. You do nothing to deserve them. They are a gift, and you can spend them any way you want to. Just one rule: when the day is gone you can’t have any of them back. They’re yours to spend. No one else can spend them for you – not your boss, or your friends, or your spouse or your kids. They’re yours. And when you add them all up together, eventually what you have is a life – your life.
The Psalmist reminds us to spend those seconds wisely; The length of our days is seventy years…or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:8-9
Here are three guidelines that will help us number our days aright.
First, express gratitude for imperfect gifts. We live well when we cultivate gratitude for things that we have right now, in particular, those less-than-perfect gifts. Gifts like your body. Yes, your body is gift – likely an imperfect one – but it is a gift! Often we go through life thinking, “If my body were different and perfect or if I had someone else’s body, then I would be grateful.” Flawed as it may be, I must learn to be grateful for my body, my home, my friends, my work, my spouse and my life. I must learn to be grateful for imperfect gifts, because those are the only ones that I am going to get in this world.
Second, treasure this moment. Perhaps the most dangerous word in all the English language is the word “someday.” Someday I’ll be the father I’ve always intended to be. Someday I’ll quit complaining and learn to be grateful. Someday I’ll get in shape. Someday I’ll slow down and start enjoying my children or my grandchildren. Someday I’ll take more risks. Someday I’ll be generous. Someday. People live their whole lives waiting for someday: someday when I graduate, someday when I get a job, someday when I get married, someday when we have kids, someday when the kids move away, someday when I retire. Someday I’ll stop waiting and start living.
One of the best things that you and I can do is to develop the attitude of being fully alive right now, of occupying wholly this present moment as God’s gift. Because, after all, this present moment is all we have. Yesterday is gone and nothing in the world can bring it back. Tomorrow is not here yet and it may never come. We have this moment and every moment – the big obviously dramatic ones and the tiny apparently insignificant ones — is precious, every one is God’s gift and we must learn to live in it. The alternative is to live for someday that never comes.
Thirdly, don’t live faster than you can grow in love. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love takes time and hurried people don’t have time. Someone once said that children spell love T-I-M-E. It’s impossible to grow in love in a hurry. In fact there are very few experiences of enduring value that happen at a high rate of speed. Marital intimacy, close friendships, listening to God, being a great parent are among the host of things that simply do not happen when life is lived at a high rate of speed. On the other hand, some of the richest experiences in life; transforming times with family, friends, and God all have in common the fact that they take time. They happen when life is unhurried. They are all done slowly. The best of life, those treasured moments that make us feel alive and human and Christian and married—all occur at a pace of unhurried pace of life.
This is the day. These are the moments. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Number them well!