Redeeming Our Time
Redeeming our Time
I don’t think I have to start with an explanation of how weird the last few weeks have been. It is safe to say that what we are experiencing these days is unprecedented not only in the impact it has already had around the globe, but in the far reaching consequences that will come from it in the months and years to come. I have to say, I vastly underestimated the impact COVID-19 would have not only on the human race but also in my personal life. As many will undoubtedly relate, when the first rumors surfaced about a potential quarantine, I made a lot of assumptions. Not all of them were wrong but a lot were. One of the biggest assumptions I made was that time would abound, which led to assumptions I made about how I was going to use this time. Initially, I assumed my spiritual disciplines would improve - I would pray more, read the Bible more, and be more intentional in my outreach to others. Then, I assumed I would have more time to read given the fact that I already read a decent amount in normal circumstances. I even started looking for different online courses and tutorials I would take in order to improve my skills. And more importantly, I assumed the increase in time with my wife and children would naturally result in an increase of quality time with them. Spoiler alert: I was dead wrong.
Though I have been able to practice my daily spiritual disciplines, I’ve done it more irregularly than I had in the prior few months or even years. My prayer time has been affected by assuming that I don’t have to wake up early since my son isn’t going to school. You know what has been unaffected by the coronavirus? My son’s ability to wake up at ungodly hours of the night and morning. My Bible Reading Plan that I had been so faithful to has also been thrown off by the new normal. My Goodreads has seen fewer updates than before, and I haven’t even had time to find an online course, much less take one. And though there have been sweet and unforgettable times with my family, we’ve had to fight harder than I expected to use our time together intentionally.
One of the things this time at home has taught me is that “I don’t have time” is the junk drawer of excuses for all the things that we just don’t prioritize. One of the silver linings of this crisis is the revelation that our neglect of spiritual disciplines is a matter of the heart and not a matter of the clock. The only way I’ve been able to redeem my time in the last couple of weeks, though I’m not yet where I want to be, is by coming up with what in Christian tradition has been called a “Rule of Life.”
According to Peter Scazzero, A Rule of Life is “an intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything we do. . . . The starting point and foundation of any Rule is a desire to be with God and to love him.” Though a detailed explanation of the Rule of Life goes beyond the goal of this point, there are plenty of resources out there for those who may feel inclined to study it further.
In my case, the way I devise my Rule of Life is by planning for things that seem to come naturally to other believers. I plan (if imperfectly) for my time with God (prayer and reading of Scripture), time with family, and time with myself (I know it sounds cheesy, but I will explain below, so don’t judge me.)
Time with God
After being a Christian for nearly 30 years, there are few things that I’m as sure of as this: If I don’t plan my times of personal prayer and Bible study, they simply will not happen. So here is how I plan for these things:
Prayer. If prayer isn’t the first thing I do in the morning there will be very little prayer the rest of the day. So prayer is usually the very first thing I do. I personally make it a rule to pray and read the Bible before looking at my phone, which helps me stay focused. I also usually pray in the same spot every day, kneeling next to a couch in my living room. The posture of my body, I’ve found, helps the posture of my heart. You don’t have to do it the same way, but find a way that trains you to remember you are in the presence of God. When praying I also like to pray out of the Bible, so sometimes I will choose a Psalm or another portion of Scripture that helps me give structure to my prayer and pray for things I might not if I pray on my own. A secondary tool that I find very helpful is reading books of prayer such as the “Valley of Vision.”
Bible reading: I usually follow my prayer with scripture reading. I find it helpful to follow a reading plan that suits me. This time around I’m using a chronological plan from the Story of Redemption edition of the ESV Bible. There are countless reading plans available online, find one that you like and plan on following through. I have also found it helpful to listen to the Bible while reading certain passages that may be challenging because it helps me to focus better. I personally enjoy the Dwell Bible app.
Time with Family
As much as I love my children, I’ve realized that having quality of time and quantity of time are equally important. My children benefit not only from the intentional time I spend with them but also from the amount of time I spend with them. The challenge is when you have an overabundance of time with them, it is easy to assume that being in close quarters for extended periods equals quality time. After a few weeks of quarantine, I am convinced that I could be in the same room with my kids for hours and still have no quality time with them unless I plan to do so.
Under normal circumstances, as a family, we really try to guard mealtimes and our Bible reading time before the kids go down for the night. During the quarantine, we had to find more ways to spend all of this time together. My wife Megan has been great at investing time with our kids to create and use their imagination with legos, painting, and even baking together. One of the things we have presently readjusted is that we have found TV shows that we enjoy together as a family that are fun for all of us. Please remember that God is not only glorified by how much Bible your kids may know, but also by how loved your kids feel when doing things that are a bit more mundane.
Time with Myself
This section can be further divided into two sections: my time at work and my time of rest.
Time at Work:
During this quarantine, I am blessed to be able to work from home and have a flexible schedule, and yet I found myself a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the quarantine trying to balance my time at work and time with my family. I quickly realized that I had to set boundaries and parameters. I found it helpful to set limits that would remind me that even while being at home, if my mind is still at work, it makes no difference where I am physically. If your situation allows it, find blocks of time when you put your phone down and you intentionally choose not to work, and if possible find one day when you rest from work completely. Sound familiar? It almost sounds like it should be a commandment… oh wait!
Time of Rest:
One of the best things I have tried to go back to during the last week or two is curating my entertainment. This is an idea I borrowed from a book I highly recommend, “The Common Rule.” I realize that I am addicted to entertainment. I have the ability to waste my time like no one else if I don’t curate my entertainment. Isn’t it crazy how much time we can waste on looking for the right movie or TV show? Or how many times have you binge watched a show that was just ok? So now I try to only watch TV shows or movies that I really want to watch or read books that I really want to read. The one caveat is that watching “The Office” is always ok.
As you plan your “Rule of Life” pray that the Lord would give you a heart like John the Baptist whose desire was to decrease so that God would increase in him. In a culture that for years has been hungry for time, let us be good stewards of the time that God has given us during this season.
Some books I have enjoyed on the topic and would highly recommend are: