In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we read, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (3:1). It is a verse that points us toward balance, and suggests that when we are able to have balance in our lives, we are able to fit in to our lives what needs to be fit in. In other words, it suggests that there is time for everything that we need in our lives, if we are willing to balance our priorities.
So often, when I hear people talking about their schedules (and when I hear myself talking about my schedule!) we sound as if we are victims of our calendars. We talk about not having time for something, and in doing so, we speak as if we are at the mercy of some Grand Scheduler who makes entries into our calendars whether we like it or not, and who appoints duties and tasks to us over which we have no control. How many times have you heard yourself say, “I just can’t do that. I don’t have time.”
Yet, there is no more or less time now than was true in the past. The day has been 24 hours long since any human being can remember. We do not find ourselves having fewer hours with which to conduct our lives than our ancestors did. If anything, the invention of the electric light gave human beings more usable time than we previously had. But we so often speak as if time has become a scarce commodity, and we have convinced ourselves, I think, that the scarcity is real. We have done such a good job of convincing ourselves that we have less time, that we are often more willing to part with our money than give our time to something. Who would have thought that the day would come when money would seem more plentiful to people than time?
What we have is not a scarcity of time, but an abundance of choice. No where is that abundance of choice more evident, perhaps, than among our children. When I was a kid, there frankly was very little to do. No computers to occupy my time, of course, and only four available channels on the TV. Other than sports, there were really no extra-curricular school activities to get involved in. There was a lot more space in my schedule, and fewer priorities to choose between. These days, there seems to be no end to the kinds of activities that are available to children of all ages, and many of us who are parents feel like we need to have our kids highly scheduled, in part to keep them out of trouble and in part to make sure that their college applications have plenty of extras aside from academics to attract the attention of admissions officers.
The kid world is probably a reflection of our adult world. We seem to equate being busy with being successful, and there are many more things available to us to keep us busy than was the case a generation ago. Even our vacations tend to be tightly scheduled and filled with activity. We work hard, we play hard, and as various causes and organizations vie for the time that is left over, we find ourselves having to say that we just don’t have time to do everything.
And in a sense, that’s true, of course. We don’t have time to do everything. But we do have the time to do what is necessary in the various parts of our life: work, family, leisure, spiritual and charitable. It is a matter of being rather disciplined about setting our priorities and making sure that we make choices that allow us to balance our lives. It’s not easy (I don’t claim to have mastered this myself!), but it is possible and worthwhile to do. As we are able to achieve a better balance, we teach our children that balance is important, and we lead more healthy lives, along with our families.
It begins with an understanding of what is truly important to us, what we truly value, and then allowing that understanding to guide our choices. We’ll still be tired at the end of the day, but we may also find that we are more fulfilled.