The Best Use of the Time

This verse has been kicking my tail lately-- Ephesians 5:15-16:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Specifically, the bolded part.

The verse makes me ask these three questions: How can I carefully walk in the time I'm given? How can I be wise with the time I'm given? How can I best use the time I'm given?

I've been trying to examine where I spend my time-- in the home-- how am I using my time? While out in the community, how am I using my time? While online, how am I using my time? When my husband's home, how am I using that time? It's hard to do this kind of evaluation, because it (at least in my case) reveals an inefficiency that is easier left alone than dealt with.

WALK CAREFULLY
Just this morning, I was listening to an Alistair Begg sermon (I love him by the way-- his Scottish accent is just like the icing on the cake of his great teaching!) called "Laziness". He talked about how laziness is a character quality that only snowballs in our lives. We are highly unlikely to one day get up and begin being productive and efficient in our every day lives if we have cultivated an attitude of laziness, sloth, and convenience. He compared it (overcoming laziness) to a mountain we have to climb in life-- only it's a growing mountain. The longer we wait, the higher it gets and more difficult it is to climb it and overcome that weakness in our lives.

Now, in comparison to where I was five years ago, I am a much more efficient homemaker, cook, mother, and wife. But I still waste time on the internet, still spend too much time "playing" and end up "playing" catch-up on household duties because I slacked, and still find that I'm not as efficient and hard-working as I ought to be. So I have things I need to be more careful about... for example, being sure I start the day with a hard-working attitude (because I've found that so much more gets done when I start the day that way). And I need to spend more time on the floor with my kiddos, playing and spending time with them in a way that is meaningful for them.

WALK WISELY
More specifically though, on this question of using my time, the verse talks not just about carefully using the time, but WISELY using the time. To me that implies making the most Christ-honoring choices with how I'm using my time. Sometimes, that will mean efficiency but sometimes that will mean setting aside the chores and intentionally "playing" with my children with love and building our relationships at the forefront of my mind. Additionally, it will undoubtedly mean saying "no" to some very, VERY good things.

For example, I've been a part of an online parenting forum for a while. But it's taking my time. Time with my family. It's a lovely place to go to talk with other women-- interesting, funny, godly women-- and yet, it's taking my time. I have other places online that I'd prefer to go with the stint of "free" time I have online... so aside from specific questions I might have or issues that might arise, I've decided not to go back there. It's a hard decision-- my arrow often wants to point on that bookmark. But I'm not going back there to just "kill" time.

But I should specifically say this: in the last year of our lives, going through culture shock, pregnancy hormones and all the rest, that place was a good place for me-- a place of fellowship and encouragement-- so don't hear me wrong on this-- I'm not dissing online friendships or forums or saying it's evil or that everyone else needs to quit or anything else. What I am saying is this: for me, at this time, this is the wise choice for me-- to quit "killing time" at that particular online "place".

MAKE THE BEST USE OF THE TIME
How can I make the best use of the time? It's a hard question to answer. And the more demands there are on our time, the more clear our priorities must be in our minds so that we can choose wisely how to use these moments we're given. But even if we're not always sure of the "best" use of our time, I'm sure for each of us, there is at least something we can do to make better use of the time...

I'd love to hear from each of you. Is this a struggle for you? Perhaps your struggle is the opposite-- maybe you are too rigid and need to deviate from your schedule occasionally in order to be flexible to what God asks of you throughout the day. But I'd be interested to hear how this verse may have specific implications for your life.


[Incidentally, the first day that I recently came across this verse, I went to my bloglines account and found that Randy Alcorn had written an article about it as well. His is VERY challenging and very well worth your time. It's called, "Planned Neglect: Saying No to the Good Things So We Can Say Yes to the Best". You'll not regret having read his thought-provoking article, even if it does take your time. ;-) ]

32 comments:

Crystal said...

Jess, this post is so timely in my life right now! My husband and I recently had a disagreement over my time spent at home. I am 6 months pregnant with our first child, and he suggested that I work part time after the baby is born since I won't be "busy enough" when the child comes along. I STRONGLY disagreed, but then he pointed out that I TALK about doing a lot around the house but never get to it. I long to be a busy mom, wife, cook, cleaner...etc. I do not want to waste my time while I have the gift of being a stay at home mom. My husband and I agreed that I should NOT work full time, but I want to be a busy wife so that taking care of my child and home does keep me busy enough. How do I make a better use of time? Once the house is clean, dinner is cooking, and the child is taken care of, what do I do?

Thanks for this great post!

Catherine said...

Jess,
This is a great post. Thanks so much for the reminders about using our time wisely.

I have been thinking about this issue from a chronic pain/homemaking/homeschooling point of view and was going to blog about it this week. May I link to your post?

Blessings,
Catherine

Beth and Jason said...

Jill Briscoe says it like this: "There is an art to leaving things undone so that the greater thing can be done." Then the challenge is just making sure that I'm leaving the right things undone and actually giving the time I gain to "the greater thing."

We were challenged a while back to keep track of how we spent all our time for a week. We had little charts with the whole day broken into 15-minute increments, and we had to fill in the blanks with how we spent each slot. It was such an eye-opener that my husband and I decided that we wanted to repeat the activity every so often. We want to live our lives intentionally, and we've found that regularly evaluating and adjusting is a key to making sure we're walking wisely.

Terry said...

First, love the graphic! It is a perfect illustration. Second, my hubby also loves Alistair Begg. I do, too, but he listens more in the car since his job requires lots of driving.

I'm with you on the subject of using time wisely. While I waste my share of time, I have found that for me, a schedule is essential to making sure the most important things get done. When I don't follow one, my day is usually wasted (I start 100 things and never finish any of it!)and I'm playing catch-up at the end of the day.

So I try to do two things: follow a schedule, and not move away from one job until I finish it- unless it's absolutely necessary.

mrsidotf said...

This is something that I have been thinking about lately too. I have a 20 month old and now a 5 week old and I am struggling with my time. I want to walk wisely and spend my time in ways that honor the Lord and that help my family. It often seems difficult when pulled in different directions to give everyone that quality time the deserve. Especially to have quality time with my husband- who seems to get neglected.

SInce you are a mom- of more than two- do you have any advise?

mattnbec said...

Great post. Thank you so much. The link to the Randy Alcorn talk looks great.

Your thoughts almost exactly mirror mine! These things have been on my mind a lot lately. Like you, I waste time online or on facebook too much. Having also moved in the last year with a young family it has been a lifeline to home (and helped me retain my sanity!).

However, the time has come to limit my networking, blog-lurking etc. The more I do it, the more good, encouraging stuff I find, but does that help me serve my family? Is it really just becoming selfish? And I guess this has been the angle I've been convicted about it all from - selfishness and service.

The former principal of our theol college says "let your 'no's give value to you 'yes'es ". I've been kind of haunted by that phrase and the idea that (in terms of time with my children) "the days are long, but the years are short". I need to be wise with what I say 'yes' to, because I don't want my kids to remember having a mummy who always said 'no' to them. What an awful legacy that would be and a terrible witness to them. And likewise, when I don't do whatever needs to be done around the house because I'm more concerned with my own interests, I fail to be the wife the Lord has called me to be. Philippians 2:3-11 comes to mind.

Anyway, I should heed my own words and get on with sweeping and mopping the floor and folding the washing!

Bec

anya* said...

my bible study just finished up a study on Ephesians, and i remember thinking then how this verse is easy to read and tough to put into action. i am really good at being unproductive, but even better at being busy, outside of the house- trips to costco, lots of playdates- good things- but not when they leave me at friday afternoon with a weeks worth of laundry piled up and no dinner plans.
i feel like i have been giving MYSELF grace in this area, 3 months ago my husband and i adopted 3 children from the foster care system. so we went from 2 kids- to five overnight. actually we went from 0 to 5 kids in 3 years ;). obviously, i am growing a lot and trying to figure this whole new life out- but at the same time i feel like in this season in my life i need to be giving 110% everyday because of the circumstances, and maybe later on i can allow myself the freedom to be less productive. i have been learning that when i do not immediately do the breakfast dishes- chances are i am gonna be a wreck when my husband comes home. i will never catch up.
hmmm. great post jess, and i do so enjoy coming here and reading your thought provoking writing.

Mrs. "M" said...

Hi Jess,

I so enjoyed reading this post. I read Randy Alcorn's article too. Such good stuff. I read here all the time but rarely post. Partly because I get too sucked into things. We recently moved and I had bad morning sickness and the blogging went out the window....it's actually been kinda nice. :0)
Just wanted to pop out of lurk land and say "hey" and thanks for all the great honesty and truth!

mattnbec said...

A slight diversion from the sweeping etc...I just remembered a blog entry from "In All Honesty" about productive and unproductive mornings which is both an encouragement if you actually do need to have a less productive morning as well as a spur to be productive - http://jeaninallhonesty.blogspot.com/2008/05/two-very-different-mornings.html

Also, my google reader just alerted me to the fact that over at Girl Talk, they have just posted about these same verses! (http://girltalk.blogs.com/girltalk/2008/06/a-really-import.html).

Now...back to the floors!

Laura said...

My problem is always that I seem to work myself out of a job! Sure, I can clean the house Monday, do laundry on Tuesday but what about the rest of the week? Sure, I play with my kids, but that only lasts so long. Most of the time I just feel bored! Why does everyone talk about being so busy! I wish I was busier!! :)

Claire said...

Very timely for me, as well. I know God is calling me away from the stupid computer. I've been trying to delay getting on it in the morning, and then getting busy with the house, homeschooling, etc. I'm afraid my laziness has rubbed off on my kids, so now it's time to tighten up, press into my Lord, and be the wife and mom I need to be. It's true, it's very difficult to do once you've gone down that road.

Claire said...

"But I should specifically say this: in the last year of our lives, going through culture shock, pregnancy hormones and all the rest, that place was a good place for me-- a place of fellowship and encouragement-- so don't hear me wrong on this-- I'm not dissing online friendships or forums or saying it's evil or that everyone else needs to quit or anything else. What I am saying is this: for me, at this time, this is the wise choice for me-- to quit "killing time" at that particular online "place"."

Jess, you have absolutely the best way of putting things! This post has been a blessing to me - I am so often guilty of killing time, to no purpose. Thanks, and God Bless!

kmom3 said...

I definitely struggle with how I use my time AND in wanting to change my bad time habits enough to actually do something about them! As in now...I should probably go to sleep, but I so enjoy looking around on the computer. Sigh. It is a struggle. I need to go read the article you gave a link to! Thanks, Jess!

I truly do need to surrender my time to the Lord...continuously! :) This post is a great reminder!

Sara said...

The ladies at Sovereign Grace/the Girl Talk blog talked about this same verse today. Usually when this sort of thing happens, God is trying to get my attention...

Thanks for the great post.

Sara B.

Polly said...

Great post! this is a struggle for me, as I have SO many interests and so little time. The priorities in my life are my God, my family and my home. But I also practice law part-time, write part-time and do volunteer work. Right now I'm in the phase of starting to prune my life and get rid of some of the non-essentials (some of the paid work). Even without paid work, my days sometimes are a struggle because I have to bounce between getting things done around the house and making sure I spend enough time with my son playing and reading.

the 3 things I've found to be most helpful in my journey thus far:

--limiting internet time--the 'net is such a time-vacuum....I am really, really particular. Reign in the internet beast!!!

--following a housekeeping routine

--trying to get the housekeeping done in the morning. that gives me the rest of the day for other stuff--mostly kid-stuff!!

Jessica B said...

Csrolyn Mahaney and crew blogged on this verse today also. Maybe I'm needing this word...

4kids&luvit said...

Just stumbled on your site- LOVE IT! I'll read more later when I have some more free time! Feel free to swing on by my blog sometime!

Meagan said...

Hi Jess,

I came upon your blog last week and have been so blessed by just the few posts I have read.

So many good comments already and I would echo many of the things these women have said. This area of how I use my time has been something I have been very convicted of lately, but have continuously tried to push it away and ignore it. We are in the midst of big life changes right now--hubby has a new job in a new town and until we find a place to live there he is gone all week. I need to pack, get our house ready for renters, find renters, I will be homeschooling for the first time this year...on and on it goes. At the end of the day I look back and not much has been accomplished because I have (for too long) used the excuse that when I get overwhelmed I just can't function as well and I spin my wheels. But a couple weeks ago I finally admitted that I am just making excuses and being lazy. I need to get up and get moving, whether I feel like it or not! I mentioned this to my husband and he kind of chuckled and said he had been thinking some of the same things about himself and told me about the sermon by Alistar Begg that you mentioned.

I want so much to live intentionally, to model to my children what a godly life looks like, to say yes to what is important, and to work diligently unto the Lord so that He alone is glorified!

Thanks for the great post! It came at a great time!

Sanders said...

Jess,
This is DEFINITELY something I struggle with and I am looking forward to reading the two articles you mentioned. While I "kill" time doing good things online, I end up neglecting house work which often ends up stealing time away from my husband and kids. The most difficult part for me is how much I have grown due to much of the time I have spent online listening to sermons and reading blogs from mothers ahead of me in this game. I know there's a balance, what did you call it: a "new normal" after having another child...I've just yet to find it. Godd stuff - thanks for posting this!

CG, E3 & Sons said...

Thanks for making a great and important point about using our time wisely. It is SO easy to "time waste", and fritter away the day doing things that don't NEED to be done, instead of doing the most important things that we are called to. Sometimes at the end of the day, I think about how I have spent the most of my time... and even though what I have been doing is usually not inherently BAD, if it isn't a GOOD use of time then it was a waste. Thanks for the reminder to set aside time for the things that matter... instead of falling into the trap of frittering the day (or, just little chunks of time) away. :)

- CG

~Tami said...

I have struggle with time management for the majority of my adult life. I can't seem to fit in housework. I struggle to keep everyone in clean clothes. However, lately God has really laid it on my heart that time with Him and time with my children are so so important. My children are really growing up fast, and I don't have much spiritual training time left.

I don't have anything to offer, other than be there and be aware while your children are home.

Domestikate said...

How timely! I read that exact passage the morning you posted this blog. I felt so convicted by it that I haven't commented until now ;-) I wanted to meditate on it and let it sink in a bit.

I wrote some similar things in my journal that morning. I wrote "What is the best use of my time? What things in my day will make a difference in eternity?" Based on the verses that follow (verses 17-21) I found some tidbits of wisdom to help make the "best use of my time".

1. "understand what the will of the Lord is" (vs.17). How do I do that? By spending quality time in the prayer and the Word, meditating on it, applying it to my day. That certainly is one of the best uses of my time, but seems to get shoved aside sometimes by things of little or no value.

2. "be filled with the Spirit" (vs. 18). I need to consciously choose to listen and obey the voice of the Spirit. In my case, to get off the computer when I know there are other things that need my attention (or not go on at all), to spend that time with my kids instead of telling them to find something to do, etc. Obedience is a choice.

3. "addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart."(vs.19) How often do I speak forth the Truth in my day? Am I actively speaking (and singing) the things of God? Does my heart pour forth a melody to the Lord, or is it filled with grumbling and complaining that someone didn't put their shoes away or their are dishes in the sink? Hmmmm, this one really hit home.

4. "giving thank always and for everything" (vs. 20). Am I thankful for my lot in life? If I accept and am thankful for what the Lord has and is doing I think I will be much more motivated to stay on track and be a good steward of my time.

5. "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" (vs. 21) I am a lazy sinner who has been saved by the grace of our Lord. Because He has given me new life I desire to serve and please Him. I need to follow His example of a true servant. Putting the needs of others before my own. As a wife and mother that is what it really comes down to. Do I submit to my flesh or do I submit to Christ by putting others before me.

Sorry this is so long. I just find it awesome that the Lord speaks the same messages to those on different continents on the same day... that is so cool! I look forward to going to the links you mentioned... but when I have time :)

Catherine R. said...

Time can be an interesting thing for me. At this point in my life I am getting used to being a stay-at-home_____. Also my first child has not been born yet. I find that sometimes I actually struggle with boredom. After so many years of going to public school, working at jobs and having college course work, I feel that I don't know what to do unless someone tells me.

All that said, I have a true appreciation for not being required to work at a mind-numbing job and/ or juggle school work that gives me no time to relax and makes me feel like I'm getting an ulcer from stress. I really prefer to be able to be relaxed and refreshed in my home. However, I am also struggling. Another thing that makes it hard is that I am trying not to watch trashy TV shows or spend money out of boredom or all the other obviously unhealthy things I used to do everyday. I feel like I don't do well over-scheduled or under-scheduled.

Right now I am trying to listen to sermons online and and read my bible, stuff like that but I want to cry from boredom (sorry!) sometimes. I get depressed when I am bored, yet I hate that I find myself waiting for each day to be over already and wish I knew what to do with myself.

Not to depress anyone, I am not like this all the time, I do find cleaning projects and take walks when the weather permits but this is a actually major struggle for me right now. I think part of it is that I am an entertainment addict like many people in our culture...left with my own thoughts and time I go mad.

Jess said...

Well, Catherine, the good news is that pretty soon you're going to have your days quite full... so full that you won't have time enough, most days. :) Once that baby arrives, you'll have plenty, plenty to do! Perhaps you could prepare now, for then? Are you close enough to d-day that you could pre-make some meals to put in the freezer? Or start nesting?

:) You make me smile. Thanks for your honest comments.
Jess

Anonymous said...

So do you feel convicted about spending your time wisely through what you FOCUS on?

It seems like you feel that teaching your 'homemaker' theology is WAY more important than spreading the Gospel.

Sara Ann

Jess said...

Sara Ann,
Try though I might, I can't help but read an extreme snottiness all wrapped up in your comment. And this isn't the first time you've come and left a comment aimed at me rather than at the content. I'll ask you to refrain from pointing comments at me personally (seeing as how you don't know me from Adam) in the future.

As for what I focus on, you are right to point out that I do focus on homemaking a lot. That is certainly not my only focus. But it is a focus. And rightly so. See what Titus 2 says we women should be passing on to younger women?

"to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."


Teaching what I know about how to be a wife and mother, how to be self-controlled and pure, how to keep ones home, how to be kind, how to be subject to one's husband... these are all done in an effort to obey Scripture directly. And apparently, it is not a wasted effort-- the whole point is "that no one will malign the will of God."

I will not publish any more personally-targeted comments from you towards me or anyone else. I simply don't have the time. But I wanted to answer you directly once more.

Jess

madgebaby said...

This is a good post for a lot of reasons--part of the reason homaking is devalued in our culture is becasue so few people see it as an "art" and put it more in the category of menial labor. If more people had the pleasure of living in a well managed home, they might begin to think differently.

I think that the point of being a well organized homemaker is so that we can do other things too--when it becomes a means unto itself it can easily become an idol. I think that is part of what Jess is getting at here.

Whether it is developing connections with other adults, attending to the play life of kids so you really "know" the other kids and their parents, taking food to a sick neighbor or having coffee with a weary friend, volunteer work or bible study or whatever, it is easy to let these very important things slide either out of disorganization or because we are attempting to keep the "perfect" house.

elliedoan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Me~ said...

What a great post. This was perfect timing for me. Thank you!

:..Rebekah..: said...

I love this verse. I go back to it often when I know I need to be reminded, challenged, and encouraged to be wise with the time that God has given me.

MoziEsmé said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking post! It is so easy for me to waste time on the internet - though it doesn't seem wasted at the time - and miss out on real life as it happens. And there are always time conflicts of what seem to be two equally-good choices - spending time with family versus helping a friend, for instance. I need to constantly put things in perspective.

Alison said...

Thanks for this! I hope to listen to that sermon soon. I have just recently admitted to myself that many of my time management issues are really rooted in laziness...