I know. I know. Everybody needs an organizer. Every family needs a calendar. Even third-graders need organizers. We are all busy, busy, busy. There is not enough time in a day. Too many people get too little sleep trying to get around to the day’s obligations. With all this organizing, you would think we are the most efficient, productive, happy people in the history of the world.
I don’t know anyone who has made peace with time. When I call people to visit, I ask how they are. Way too many answer, “I’m hangin’ in there.” That is no kind of answer for a human being. That is a horrible answer to hear from person after person. Maybe one person is under so much pressure that he rightly feels he is barely hanging on, but everyone? I don’t believe it.
What I believe is this: too many people feel obligated to accomplish too many goals set for them by other people or by some unreasoning expectation in their own psyches. This is not the way God meant for us to live. God did not create us for misery; he created us for joy. He created us to know him and to know one another in loving relationships. He created us to achieve fulfillment doing all sorts of wonderful things. He did not create us to keep 3-ring binders neatly annotated for the efficient use of every second.
The organizer is the ultimate weapon of the doctrine of scarcity. The organizer says that there is not nearly enough time for everything, and the only hope of a successful life is to be so well-organized that you can explain any failures by showing that you sincerely tried to make it all work. The organizer says it is okay for a person to be overwhelmed by all the obligations he must meet, and suggests that it is both possible and necessary for him live this way.
I was in high school when my mother announced one evening that that four people in our family had nine places to be, and we would not be going to any of them. She was normally a stickler for people’s commitments and obligations. This behavior was out of character for her. That says something for the level of frustration she experienced. I remember it precisely because it wasn’t the way we normally lived. In today’s language we would say that my mother needed, and took, a timeout.
Unfortunately, the timeout did not prove much. It didn’t really change our lives, except for that night. I actually found that the missed events simply piled up in the following days, which were already overloaded. In those days, and for many years thereafter, I bought into the notion that we are all obligated to do more things than the time allows, and we should shut up about it and quietly put up with it. I accepted the doctrine of scarcity of time.
I don’t accept that doctrine any more. I still need to improve my usage of time, but not because there isn’t enough. I need to learn what it is I am here for. Am I here to have a house that could be a museum of contemporary design, or am I here to help my child grow up knowing I love her? Am I called to wear myself out trying to do a job I hate in order to earn more money than I earn doing a job I love? Did God create me for a purpose, or am I a tool of other people’s definition of life?
Of course, you may reply that you have to take the job you can get, so maybe you don’t get to do a job you like? I have been there. I have done that. And that is why I can tell you that doing the job you took for the right reasons, even though it seemed like the wrong job can be a calling in itself. The job you took in order to meet your obligations to your family and your creditors can be God’s gateway to discovering things about yourself that you would never otherwise have learned. That sort of obligation is not set by someone else; you make that choice, because you have a commitment to principle, and God is with you through such an experience. It can still be the answer to the question, Did God create me for a purpose? Am I doing this for God’s reasons or for somebody else’s reasons?
That is the question we all need to ask ourselves about the way we use time. Unlike God’s other gifts to us, we cannot bank time. I always loved the song, “Time in a Bottle” just for its title. It was such a great image – the idea that time could be hoarded until we were able to use it the way we want. But time doesn’t work that way. Every minute we throw away in misery and frustration is a minute we will never use in fulfilling accomplishment. So we ought always to be asking ourselves, Am I doing what I am doing because God brought me to this place at this time, or did somebody else put me here?
Think about your dreams. Think about your vision of yourself. Where does your mind go when you let it go? Did you always want to write or teach or make people well? Are you doing something else instead? Why? Did God bring you to this place at this time, or did you follow somebody else’s path?
God is the God of abundance. He makes plenty of time for everything you were created to accomplish on this earth. Look at the way he made the universe. Stars in profusion. Flowers in thousands of variations. Children of all colors. He doesn’t do anything stingy. He isn’t stingy with you. You are created with gifts—talents, dreams, a calling. Do what you are created to do, and let everything else fall away. You will be a lot happier, and you will discover that you have all the time you need.