We sit around the massive wooden table as one year ends and another begins, warming our hands on hot mugs and enjoying the peaceful evening, now that the bustle of the holidays is on the down-swing. We share about our journeys in the past year, and look ahead at the months to come. It’s something we are learning– that the days and weeks will pass by, regardless of how you live, and you have to live like you mean it if you want all those minutes to mean something in the end. We waste too much, stuffing life into boxes labeled with Work and Family and Church and Play (as if some hours matter more or are deserving of more scrutiny), when it is all just Life, and all of it shaping who we are becoming.
The math says we have 168 hours every week, but when you start dividing them out into piles of Sleep, and Housework, and Job, and driving kids around, and even multiplying the minutes it takes to put on your makeup in the morning, they get swallowed up pretty quickly. And I confess that an inordinate amount of time gets swallowed up by the TV, and there are whole hours unaccounted for that fall through the cracks completely, so who am I to complain that I don’t have time to pray, or time to invest in my own health, or time to minister to others? We are starting to realize that the question goes much deeper than how we spend our time– it’s more about why we do what we do– the needs and fears that drive us.
The Church-planter Paul encouraged the new believers to leave that Self-driven life behind, to embrace their identity and purpose in Christ: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Hand-made uniquely and purposefully, and brought to life in Christ for God’s good purposes; and we are just the right people to do what He has in mind for us, because He made us that way. This is the abundant life that Jesus came to provide. Why then do I let other people’s expectations drive so many of my 168 hours, and push myself to impossible standards, or let lethargy and avoidance steal so much of my days, just because it is hard to believe that who-He-made is good enough? This is the yoke we lay on ourselves, and it does indeed get heavy. But Jesus is still saying “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29) Those 168 hours of sleep and work and play are all alight with His presence and the purpose He gives them, if we will only wake up and live them all.
So we look ahead at the days on the calendar and we choose right here to celebrate the good, mourn the bad, to forgive and to learn and to grow….to offer it all up to the Giver of Time as an act of worship. It’s what the Church-planter Paul kept telling the believers long ago: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) That kind of living doesn’t come naturally. Much more natural to float along the river of days and just try to navigate without too many bumps and bruises, snatch whatever good comes our way. But this living intentionally?…this taking responsibility for our direction and our attitudes?…this choosing “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Philippians 4:8)? If we fix our sights on such things here at the beginning of the year, knowing well that they all find their fullest expression in the person of Jesus?…well, if we do that, maybe we are indeed growing wiser with age.
Here at the beginning, it’s time to make some wise decisions about the way we are living…all us women of different ages and stages of life, united in purpose and heart’s desire. So we talk about finding One Word to name where God is leading us, and we wrestle with how to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1), and we make some honest confessions about why our schedules are filled with every distraction under the sun, and we explore how to encourage those younger to follow along in our intentions to live well. None of us know what we will face this year, but here at the beginning we resolve to seek God in it and through it, and invite His work in our hearts. This one thing, we can do.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10)
“If you hold the past too tightly, your arms have no room for the present — no room for the gifts of now.” (Ann VosKamp)