Every week, I have people telling me that they don’t have enough time. They don’t have enough time to read books. Or they don’t have enough time to work out. Or they don’t have enough time to learn a foreign language. Or they don’t have enough time to cook meals from scratch.
Time is one of those things that is shared out evenly; we all get the same amount dolled out to us. Every day, we each get 24 hours to use the way we want to. Of course, there are some hours we have more wriggle room to choose to do something we feel we ‘want.’ I don’t always want to do laundry, or cook a meal, or spend 2 hours in a meeting. But at least some of our time we do get to choose.
Dallas Willard, guru of Christian formation, instructed his readers to “Arrange your life so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God” (from Living in Christ’s Presence). I am struck by that phrase: arrange your life. It tells me that I get to organise my life around those things that I truly value. I get to make choices that reflect what I want to be true about my life. That idea that I have in my head about what makes a ‘good life?’ I have permission to arrange my life so that I am living that good life.
It’s not always easy, let’s face it. The wannabe writer who chooses to spend their vacation time holed up in their urban apartment instead of with their friends at the beach. The couple committed to co-parenting who miss promotions they deserve because they went part-time. The amateur athlete who gets up at o’dark thirty every day to log their hour of training before work. The mum who studies at night after the kids go to bed to complete the degree she’s set her heart on.
The last few months, our family decided to be intentional about keeping Sabbath. Who feels like they have time to set aside emails, homework and housework for an entire day? None of us! But we did it anyway and the results were surprising, even to us. You can read about what we learned here.
More recently, I realised that I desperately need to make silence part of my daily rhythm. You’d be amazed how hard it is to keep silence for just 10 minutes every day! It’s incredibly easy to find a million other things that need doing, rather than sit my butt down on a chair and shut the hell up. But choosing to do it meets a need in my soul that makes me wonder why so few of us have caught onto this secret.
I remember when I started my Master’s degree. One of our professors addressed the class during our first residential, strongly exhorting us to ‘prune’ things from our lives in order to make space to fit in our studies. Some of us did - I pretty much stuck to my daily 6am to 8am study slot - while some of us tried to stuff study hours in alongside an already full schedule … only to crash and burn later. It’s hard for us to believe that time isn’t as stretchy as we’d like it to be.
Anyway, my point is this. We do actually have time. We have the same amount of time as everyone else, and we use it the way we want to (at least part of it). Honestly, I’m preaching to myself: as boring as it seems to get myself to bed at 10.30pm, if I go to bed any later I find it hard to get up at 6am to read, journal and go for a run. I’m reminding myself that I get to choose to have time to reflect and exercise, or not. I get to create the life I want and the person I become. I am not a victim of the other demands on my time. And when I wish that I could just watch another hour of evening Netflix and not set the alarm for the morning, I want to remember the rest of what Dallas Willard said: “Arrange your life so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”
What brings you deep contentment, joy and confidence on an ordinary, everyday basis? Organise your life so that you have more of that! I know I want to.