Distractions come in many costumes. Some appeal to our desire for pleasure and some appeal to our desire to see ourselves as good people. One thing they all have in common is that they suck up time.
Some friends and I noticed how many of the folks we care about find themselves in debt -not just financial debt, but overwhelming time debt. So many people (especially women) feel they do not have enough time for their families, for their jobs, for their friends, for their church families, for the community, for healthy recreation, for their own spiritual growth –for sleep. They run from early in the morning until late at night, eating the bread of painful labours, with hardly a moment to sit quietly, enjoy creation and just be.
We know about the problem here in North America of the acceptance of living in debt as a “normal” lifestyle. Some folks are meeting all their financial obligations, but living in overwhelming time debt. They simply have none to spare – and you can’t borrow time from any institution after filling out a few applications. When children are grown, they are grown; you can’t get those years back. When friends and family pass on, the time for being with them is gone, no extensions available. So many older folks who say they wish they had spent their time more wisely are watching their own children’s and grandchildren’s calendars fill up to an even greater degree than their own did.
When I returned from living in a small space with minimal furnishings for several months I was surprised by how much stuff was stashed in my house that I never missed. I began to mentally calculate how much rent I ought to charge these things for taking up room in limited storage spaces. Then I quit. It was ridiculous how much the clothes and sports equipment I hadn’t used in five years cost to store. It was time to give some stuff away.
I wonder, when we are distracted by things we are tempted to buy, including houses and “conveniences”, if we stop to calculate how much time their price, and the accrued interest, will suck out our lives. Is this toy worth the eight hours I will be away from my child to earn the money to pay for it, plus the three additional hours to pay the interest charges? Are these up-graded fashionable appliances and countertops worth missing two years worth of reading time to pay for it? Is this ten-day winter vacation on the beach with my wife worth the 43 meals I will miss with the family? Will time spent in servitude to stockholders ever be recovered, or does part of their profit margin include the time I could not spend at the bedside of a sick friend?
Many of us have been distracted by projects that looked like a good idea at the time – like trying to help suffering people caught mid-consequence. How much valuable time would have been freed up if I had learned the lesson earlier that some people’s dysfunction is a secretly prized possession they don’t actually want to give up?
How much time could have been spent on worshiping God and enjoying Him and His creation that went instead to some unfruitful guilt-provoked church program -and another evening away from the kids? How much more time would I have had to learn at His feet, and to love His children, if I hadn’t bought the lie that busy-ness is next to Godliness?
Then there’s the time wasted on covering up stupidity. Sigh. Note to self: Admit, apologize, change course, and move on.
The prayer in the Psalms, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” seldom gains our attention before we are of an age to notice the assets in our time account receding rapidly.
I wish I had listened to Mom more, “Ve are too soon old, und too late shmart.”
Oh Lord, how we need wisdom.
Keep your eyes straight ahead;
ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
leave evil in the dust.
(Proverbs 4:25-27 The Message)