Monday, March 24, 2008

God's Time

Commented a magazine editor on hearing that a longtime acquaintance, whose life had revolved around goal-setting and to-do lists, had died in a car accident: "It was the one thing she hadn't planned on."

Personally, at times I've felt that planning itself will kill me. My dreams are too big for the available time, and I have an internal taskmaster whose theme song is: "You have one year to read an entire encyclopedia, six months to raise your weekly income from $500 to $12,000, three months to write a 200-page book, two weeks to contact every potential client in the Yellow Pages, and two hours to visit every exhibit in the museum--and don't forget to watch the clock the whole time, beat up on yourself if your alloted hour takes 61 minutes, and rush through everything just in case a house fire tomorrow destroys something you haven't finished yet!" Maybe my obsession with detail comes from growing up as an engineer's daughter.

The same problem plagues my spiritual goals. If I decide to pray for fifteen minutes, and run out of things to say in fourteen, I spend the remaining minute on my knees, staring at the clock and complaining to God about my lack of an internal timer. If I make up my mind to read one chapter of the Bible every morning, and I hit Psalm 119 on the day I have to catch a bus twenty minutes after waking up, I rush through it like I were competing for the title of National Speed Reader. I could probably apply the same "race" metaphor to the majority of my waking life; I've all too frequently acted as if God put me here for the sole purpose of cramming in all the earth's knowledge and experiences within forty years.

And never mind whether any of that knowledge is used toward the glory of God and the benefit of my fellow creatures.

Hoarding our time and talents for personal benefit is as bad as burying them where they do no one any good at all. Because we aren't really doing even ourselves any good by being selfish--we're simply turning ourselves into self-centered clods who fume and fuss when something as unimportant as another human being interrupts our plans. Even if we achieve our goals, we end up bitter, depressed, and miserable.

And don't think God won't let us get to that point. It may be the only way He can get our attention.

We'd be far wiser to give Him that attention--and full control of our time--starting right now.

I crushed my time in a death grip,
Determined to hoard every hour,
And to squeeze out every last second-drop
By the strength of my own plans' power.

I feared to "waste time" in praying;
I wanted to get all I could:
But the more I crammed and the more I rushed,
The more empty my whole life stood.

At last I reached my soul's limit:
I sank to my knees in despair,
And I wept as few human hearts have wept
Since the day man first offered prayer.

Then God's voice cut through my sorrow:
"If you give Me back all your time,
And you trade its weight for the one I give,
I will send My own peace for your mind."

So I let my hands fall open,
And He filled them with joy and love,
And at last my mind came to understand
What wise use of time is made of.

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