As humans, we often grade ourselves and judge others based on how we fill our time. I mean think about it. We judge the woman who is on Facebook at 11pm at night, and then again at 4am in the morning. We judge the mom who spends hours perfecting the classroom Valentines from the idea she got on Pinterest. P.S., I hate you Pinterest, for the make-believe pressure you have placed on us as women. But I also love you, for all of the pretty clothes, and awesome hairstyles, and funny quotes that you give me.
We judge the woman who is at the gym at 5am. And how do we know she is at the gym? Because she takes a selfie to let us know if it is shoulder day or leg day. Thanks, Ms. Fitness. I can’t wait for your Sunday post so I can see all of your meals prepped for the week. We judge the family, who spends three nights a week at the ball field, and plays travel ball on Sundays. And the man, who works late hours while his wife bathes and puts the kids to be each night alone. And the couple, who takes four long weekend trips a year….without their kids.
We judge the woman who seems to have it all together. You know…boutique dress mom. Whose house you could stop by at any time and know that it would look pristine. Yep, she makes her bed. Her car is clean. She’s always on time. And we can’t stand her.
We GRADE ourselves and JUDGE others, based on how we fill our time.
As Christians, we often find ourselves looking for that perfectly balanced life. You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t be so heavenly, that you’re no earthly good.” But let me say this. Nowhere in God’s word does it speak about a “balanced” life. This is something that we as humans want. We want that control. We want to take from this and give to that in an effort to create our version of balance and order and priority.
If you were to list the top five priorities in your life in numerical order, what would your list reflect? Here’s mine:
4. Church Service
I suspect that many of yours would look the same. If you are a Christian, this is how you THINK your life SHOULD be prioritized, so this is how we SAY our life is prioritized. But I wanted to know if the way I spend my time reflected the order of these priorities. So, I created a make-shift time log of how I spend my 168 hours in an average week. This is how I categorized my activities:
1. God – prayer, study and worship
2. Family – quality time, homework, baths/care
3. Work – Career, housework, shopping, cooking
4. Church – service
5. Self – tv and social media, exercise, self-care, sleep
Here is what a typical day might look like:
5:15 – get up
5:25-5:55 – quiet time
5:55-6:55 – everybody up, dressed and out the door
6:55-5:15 – work and commuting (if I’m being honest, I spend about an hour a day on social media)
5:15-7:15 – exercise, homework and dinner (PS…I’m on social media in between stirring the sauce and checking a math problem)
7:15-7:45 – baths
7:45 – girls’ bed time
7:45-9:00 – clean up, laundry, prep for tomorrow
9:00-9:30 – on the couch…with my phone…Jason and I might talk (he’s on his phone, too)
9:30 – bed time (Pinterest!)
10:00 – sleep
Here’s the 168 Hour Breakdown:
55 – working/commuting/housework/shopping/cooking
7 – worship/quiet time
30 - FB and TV/self-care/exercise
26 – quality time/caring for kids/husband
50 – sleeping
I tallied up that I spend approximately 2.5 hours a day on social media and watching TV. Tally it up. We are constantly on these things…in the drive-up, at the soccer field, at the dinner table, while we are watching TV, and even in the bedroom.
Several months ago, I was cooking dinner and yes, looking at my phone, when my three year old asked, “Momma, why does your phone need you all the time?” Confused, I asked her, “What? Why do you think my phone NEEDS me?” “Well, you’re always picking it up and looking at it. Why does it need you?”
I mean, kick me in the gut. You would THINK that that moment, and that little question from my baby girl, would ignite a lasting change of habits in me, but it didn’t. It is still a horrible habit that I struggle with daily. I swear I could open Facebook and Like your status without even looking.
Now I know I just said that the Bible doesn’t say anything about living a “balanced” life, but I think it is safe to say that there is something very unbalanced with this picture. But since we long for more balance in our life, how can we accomplish that?
First – Quit saying that God comes first. God should come first, middle and end. God is the God of my LIFE, not the God of the 5:25-5:55am time slot on my schedule. As your life progresses, and as you dwell in its many varying stages, you will have to adjust where you spend your time. But, your time spent with God is constant, because it is always. I do believe that there are seasons in our life, when we are going through very difficult trials, that we will likely spend more CONCENTRATED time with God. But to simply say God comes FIRST, is not balance. God must be ALL, for there to be balance.
Now let’s take a look at the other four quadrants of your life: Self, Family, Work, and Service.
1. Self – If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of the rest. This is cliché, I know, but it is so true. Stop thinking that you’re selfish because you put your kid in front of the TV for 30 minutes so that you can take a proper shower and shave your legs. It won’t kill him! And it’s shorts season, for the love, so get in there and take care of that! You may have to get up earlier or stay up later to accomplish this, but it is worth it. I start my day early with coffee and Jesus. It frustrates me when this time gets interrupted. But this is MY time. My time to sit at the feet of Jesus, and be still, and be quiet, and listen, and write, and sometimes cry. This time is critical…so I’m pretty selfish with it. Maybe it's time for you to be a little selfish, too.
2. Your Family - Next, take care of your family. If you have a spouse, THEY COME FIRST. Those of us with little ones have a hard time with this, but your spouse and your marriage must take priority. When Jason and I are taking care of our marriage, we are better parents. I promise. When Jason has had special time with me, he is a more patient and loving father to our girls. He is more willing to serve and help around the house and overall, he’s just easier to tolerate. Seriously ladies, it takes so little time and it makes them so happy.
And now for the kids. When you look at my timeline, you can see that I spend more time on social media, watching TV, working on my blog, or doing things for myself, than I do with my children. I was honestly ashamed when I saw this. This is sad and this is wrong. Right now they are only three and six, but because I like myself so much, and because I have so many shiny things vying for my attention, my girls hardly ever get me FULLY PRESENT. This week, Carter Jane was “reading” a book to me, so I quickly grabbed my phone to record her. And while the video is adorable, I had to ask myself…”Why am I watching my daughter ‘read’ to me through a three-inch screen, instead of just being PRESENT, and intent on listening to her?”
I only get about three hours a day with them during the work week. How terrible that I have allowed this phone to rob them of their momma for those three precious hours. So I’ve made myself a goal, and that goal is to put my phone in my bedroom as soon as I get home in the evenings, and not pick it up until just before bed. And even then, I’ll set a strict time limit. Like I’ve said, nothing kills the mood faster than slipping under the sheets with your husband and 1000 of your Facebook followers.
3. Your Work – Some may argue that your service to your church needs to take precedence over your corporate work, but I tend to differ on that. I know that there will be seasons in my life when I can do more service at my church, but right now is not one of those seasons. However, for the majority of my adult life, I will have to devote 40 hours a week to some organization so that I can make enough money to provide for my family. (#thanksadamandeve) So that’s why I place this here.
I love my work, and I enjoy who I work with and what I do. If you don’t…find something else! Most of us spend over 25% of our week working. Make sure that you are doing something that you LOVE. Now, while I am at work, my cell phone is on my desk. I often catch myself sneaking a peak…or twenty…at Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. Let’s break this habit. Let’s not steal from our employer. Give your very best to your work while you are there, and if you want more ideas on how to do that you can check out this piece,
4. Service - Or as I like to call it Kingdom Work. GET PLUGGED IN with a body of believers. This world will rob you of your joy. I mean, for the love, Satan is so clever that I have to put my phone in timeout so that I can give my full attention to my children. Satan is on the attack, and we need to be prayed up and bound in unity with other believers, Once you find your church home, get involved in Sunday School and Bible study. And only AFTER you establish those two things, find a place to serve. Right now, I am serving in the children’s department. And it must be said that I can’t stand children. Have you ever tried to direct a choir comprised of 30 preschoolers? I have….it’s like herding cats. But they seem to like me for some reason. So I keep going because, while this work is hard, it is central. It is kingdom work.
And here’s where the BALANCE comes in. We know that God is no longer Priority #1, because we have established that He is in every priority. But how do we take these basic quadrants of our life, these quadrants of Self, Family, Work, and Service, and create a life of balance and peace? I don’t have a scientific answer for that. But this is what I do know.
When you are attuned to the Lord, when you are spending that concentrated daily time with Him, and when you welcome Him into all four of these sectors of your life, He, through the Holy Spirit, will prompt you when you are spending too much time on something and not enough on another. He doesn’t know time the way that we do, and He isn’t bound by it...that’s on us. We bind ourselves to the clock, to the calendar. His desire to spend time with you cannot be stifled by your schedules and agendas. He has all the time in the universe for you, His child. But mark my word, He WILL get your attention. Whether that is by fatigue. Or a set back. Or an argument with your spouse. Or, simply, your 3-year-old straight calling you out.
I encourage you to pray about your daily routines and commitments. Look to see where you are spending too much time or perhaps not enough time. Do you need to carve out more time for yourself, for exercise or prayer or study? Do you need to finally find that church home? Do you need me to text a responsible babysitter for you so you can go on a date with your man? I'd be more than happy to help...unless, of course, my phone is in timeout.