Ps. 46; Luke 10.38-42
More time? How many of us have said in the last week or month, “If there were more hours in the day, or days in the week, I’d get more done and I’d have time left over”? There for each and everyone of us the same 60 minute hours, and 24 hour days, and 7 day weeks; you could even say there are the same 3 sections per day (21 a week). And yet so many of us seem to run short of time, and seem so exhausted, so unfulfilled by our frantic efforts – Bill Hybels uses the word “depleted” to describe our condition or bucket-empty. What’s wrong? Is life busier? Don’t we have more “labour saving/automatic” devices in our houses than we’ve ever had; but somehow we’re running faster than ever to keep up with ourselves. People are going down to stress-related illnesses and getting into debt at alarming rates (doesn’t matter if we can’t afford to keep up with the latest technology, we’ll just charge it up to the credit card – you can hear the banks weeping with gratitude at our casual profligacy.) And yet God has given us all the same amount of time to accomplish all that He has called us to be and do. I hope to help us get some sanity into our lifestyles as we learn to let go and let God be the Master of areas from which we so often exclude Him. I mean in our time and energy, our money and work, our forgiveness and fears, our circles of friends and relatives, and purpose and life-change. It’s a journey for me too, so join me in this salutary check-up.
Martha’s Mania Jesus has turned up with His ravenous inner circle to rest at the Bethany home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Martha wants to make a fuss of Him by swinging into full-time hospitality mode. Problem is Jesus dropped into catch-up and sit with his three friends, not to receive a full-course banquet. But Mary, who gets it, sits down and takes time to listen to and engage with Him, whereas Martha is getting to the dropping heavy hints (like pots and pans) stage. Annoyed, she asks Jesus to send Mary into the kitchen to join the production line – Lord, don’t you care that’s she using you as an excuse to avoid work… Poor confrontational Martha, she’s missed the point, but Jesus gently brings her back to it – showing appreciation for her concern – you are worried and distracted by many things, but only one thing is necessary, He shows Martha that she’s missing an opportunity to refresh herself instead of working herself into a fury of hyperactivity. The better part in this case is to slow down and take time to be with the Lord. The Martha gene is in many of us to such an extent that we find our greatest satisfaction in ceaseless production, or at the least working toward to producing something, or planning to produce, or even, Lord help us, looking like we’re trying to produce something. We boast about our full diaries and then complain that we have so little time to ourselves. But listen your diary is not your God, nor is it even your spiritual director, it’s a tool that reveals what you’ve become, whereas each of us can take control of our diaries to help us become who we want to become.
The empty bucket I’ve been there, to my shame, twice. Both times it took 3 months out of my time, put Bernie under stress, my kids out of reach, and in at least one place it alienated my flock. I had been “having fun” doing all sorts of impressive ministry things, but it wasn’t enough for some who wanted me either to do more or to do what they wanted me to do. I was tired, hurt and angry, and then I got seriously ill, physically and emotionally, so I was forced to rest and wait on God. Finally it hit me that I needed more time with God, more time with my family, more time working out, and at least some time in the garden. My bucket was empty and while I could see how others had helped empty it, it for me to see that it got filled regularly.
So here are some things that got me into better practice the second time: I had to learn to be honest with the Lord about me and my unhealthy preoccupations. It helped to think about what life was like when my bucket was full, and how tuned in to God I felt, and how much easier it was to love EVERYbody. I also saw the rotten strategies that I used to make myself feel better…some are best not discussed here. Where do I go to fill my bucket? To the Lord; yes but how? It’s different for everyone of us; what is it for you? Is it in solitude, in nature, in tradition, or music, or loving people? What puts your hand into God’s hand most easily? But listen, put a scheduled time in your diary for a daily appointment with God for when you’re running well. Even Jesus needed to do this. (Mark 1.35)
The second thing that fills our bucket is being with our family, which of course means different things to different people. Whether its the people you’re connected to by blood and genetics, or whether it’s a family of friends that gather around you. These closest of relationships are a great source of what you need in your bucket; put them in your diary.
Third, it’s good for your bucket to find and engage in satisfying work. If you love your job it can be a tremendous way to put into your bucket, but if your job sucks and gets your down, ask God every day for your attitude to change towards your job and your boss, or for a new job; either in a new department or in a whole new career. If your job leaves you exhausted and under-satisfied you’re in the wrong job.
Recreation is very important for getting your bucket topped-up. Find something that you’ve always wanted to do and go after it. Is it sailing, tramping, painting, pottery, or bridge? Give it time – put it in your diary.
Getting out and making your body sweat, and your heart thump hard in your chest is an essential way to put more in your bucket. Do something that you enjoy, that you could look forward to, but also that takes the output of some real physical energy. And put that in your diary as well. In other words with each of things, since they fill your bucket and give your resources for tackling your calling in life, they are all worth making time for and keeping faith with your diary. And start in this order, by putting God’s appointment times in first
Finally a word form Bill Hybels: what would your diary look like if God was in charge of your week? How would it look if you asked Him about everything you put in there? Have you put church in there? No seriously, have you, or is it an optional extra if you have time or if you feel like turning up? When we come together in corporate worship, God meets us in ways that He can’t usually get to us, so make time for that life-changing, bucket-filling time in your week.