By Andrew Kreye
The time God has given us is a precious gift, but it’s easy to misuse.
I can choose to sleep in or wake up early. I can choose to skip dessert or eat ice cream. I can choose to spend half an hour praying, or I can spend hours watching TV.
Sometimes it’s hard to see if there’s a better choice, and if there is one, it can be hard to tell which one it is.
It may be better for you to sleep in some days. If you’re celebrating with someone, dessert could be appropriate. (Of course, it’s hard to find a time when ice cream isn’t appropriate.)
But for other decisions, the better choice is obvious. If it’s late in the day and I haven’t spent time with God in prayer, then it would be better for me to pray first before taking time for leisure.
Does that make it easy?
No, not at all.
But thanks be to God! For the Lord is patient and wishes for all of us to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
I’d like to share some lies that I tell myself about time in the hope that you can avoid them. Or maybe you’ve already experienced these, in which case, I hope I can be of some help to you.
“God in the beginning created human beings and made them subject to their own free choice. If you choose, you can keep the commandments: loyalty is doing the will of God.” – Sirach 15:14-15
Lie #1: “I’ll Make Time Later.”
Only God can “make time”.
We all have the same amount of time in a day. (For the sake of simplicity, we aren’t going to talk about general relativity or time dilation.)
I often catch myself thinking or saying, “I’ll try to make time for this or that.” What I really mean by that is: “I’ll do it if it fits into my schedule without too much inconvenience.”
However, the way we spend our time is determined by what we believe is important.
If we believe God is important, then we will choose to spend time with him. If we truly value other people, we will choose to spend time with them.
If we believe that we are the most important, however, then we will spend time doing what we want, glorifying ourselves by satisfying our desires.
The way I’ve found to fight this is to make a list of the top five things that I value. Then, when I’m deciding what to do with my time, I think back to my list and do the things of greater importance first.
That means I pray first, then I watch TV. Or I help my friend first, then I go to the gym.
We never know what will happen tomorrow, or even in the next hour, so don’t put off the important things because you don’t get time back.
Lie #2: “That Was a Waste of Time.”
“The time spent for the glory of God is never badly spent.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina
I’ve noticed that the moments when I feel like I’ve wasted time occur when I do something that I believe is less important instead of doing something that I see as more important.
Timmy feels like he wasted time because he values playing baseball with his friends more than spending time with God or his mother.
Learn from the error of Timmy’s ways.
Instead of being upset when you don’t get to do what you want to do, try to find the good in every situation.
Even in the unexpected ones that throw off your whole schedule.
If you’re in a hurry and you hit a red light, don’t dwell on the lost time. Use it as an opportunity to allow yourself to slow down.
Being frustrated won’t make the light change faster.
Lie #3: “I Don’t Have Time to Rest.”
“Man ought to imitate God both in working and also in resting.” – St. John Paul II, Laborem Exercens
Rest is necessary. Exhaustion is not.
I don’t really have anything else to say on this, so here’s another quote:
“It is a requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
Lie #4: “I’ll do Better Tomorrow.”
“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” – St. Augustine
If you know what needs to change about the way you spend your time, then start making the change today. Don’t wait until tomorrow.
When I make a poor decision about how to spend my time, I tend to think that I screwed up the whole day.
That isn’t true.
I didn’t screw up the whole day; I screwed up one minute.
Or one hour.
Or hey, it might have even been three hours! Just acknowledge it and move one. Don’t let it shape the rest of your day.
If necessary, have sorrow, repent, and go to Confession. But don’t use one poor choice as an excuse to make another.
Lie #5: “Just One More Minute.”
It never really is just one.
Always remember that the time we have does not belong to us. It isn’t ours to spend.
All we can do is give it back to God.
“Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:15-17