My Time is Not My Own

My Time

by Heather Bock

“Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him…They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.”

Screwtape Letters, pg. 111-112

I’m a list-maker. I may not often cross everything off my list in the amount of time I had hoped, but I’d rather have it on a list than floating around in my brain, items swirling in and out of remembrance and distracting me from the task at hand.

Last Saturday, I had my rather full list of all I hoped to accomplish on that day. I really wanted to go for a walk, but I knew I needed to start with my first priority–long overdue laundry. The problem was that I couldn’t put a new load in the washer because the dryer was full. I didn’t want to unload the dryer because my clean laundry basket, the receptacle I use for moving my clean, dry laundry to wherever I’m going to fold it, was piled high with folded clothes. I had to hang all those clothes up in my husband’s and my closets first. The problem was that I couldn’t get started on that task because Little E wanted me to look at something in her room, and I know how much she craves and needs my attention. However, I couldn’t come look at what she wanted yet because the boys were reminding me that I needed to give them their vitamins. Then Little E pointed out something else I needed to do with her even before I checked out her room.

After a couple of hours of this, I cried out in frustration to my husband, “I’ll NEVER get out the door to go for my walk, and I’ll never get to finish all I need to do today!!” followed by more venting than he probably wanted to hear.

I had a right to get frustrated, right? After all, isn’t it my time?

I homeschool during the week, so a large portion of each of those days are devoted to my kids or to other homeschooled kids on Wednesday mornings. I teach ESL at night, so several evening hours on Mondays through Wednesdays and sometimes Thursdays are given over to them. I co-lead a community group, so parts of Sunday mornings and most Sunday nights belong to them. Most of my evenings after the kids go to bed are set aside for time with my husband. Of course, I do give an hour or two to God most mornings in prayer and study.

However, besides soccer games, the occasional birthday party, and date nights with my husband, I have it in my mind that a big chunk of Saturdays belong to me. I give up a lot of my time to others. Don’t I deserve at least that?

This past Saturday, though, as I let loose my grievances on my husband, some words I had just read the day before in Spiritual Warfare, by Jerry Rankin, quietly raised their hands in my mind. I turned my back on them, but they patiently waited until I was calm enough to call on them.

“We would not think of justifying a right to personal time and space as something that is vulnerable to Satan’s deceit. After all, we have a right to a little peace and quiet. My time is my own. Somebody interrupts our plans or makes demands of us, and it creates resentment, causing us to miss an opportunity God may be seeking to bring into our lives…The resentment can begin to well up in our hearts toward those we are supposed to love and serve because Satan deceives us to think we have personal rights and privileges. Somehow we disregard Jesus’ call to His disciples to forsake all and follow Him as if it doesn’t apply to us!” (pg. 46).

Truly, it’s not just the couple of hours in the morning that belong to God, but every hour.

As Lewis writes in his Screwtape Letters, told from the perspective of a devil: “The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels. He is also, in theory, committed to a total service of the Enemy [God]; and if the Enemy appeared to him in bodily form and demanded the total service for even one day, he would not refuse” (pg. 112). Lewis goes on to point out that we are in this situation every day and every moment–in demand of total service to God.

Now, I don’t think this means that we let our children have their way in everything so that we never complete what we need to do, nor that I can never sit down to read a book or go on a walk. I know I need to regularly schedule some time to exercise and such so that I’m more prepared with less stress to love my family well.

However, I also need to remember (and this is hard), that the idea of me owning any time at all, even the small amount on Saturdays, is an illusion. It is all God’s, and all I plan, every list I make, needs to be put in His hands to do with what He wishes. My kids might need me during that time, and vacuuming might need to wait.

I’ve shared this quote before, but it looks like I need the reminder again:

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”

(from a 1943 letter from C.S. Lewis, included in Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis)

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

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23 thoughts on “My Time is Not My Own

  1. I avoided reading this article until today. I’ve been so frustrated at myself and my lack of time management. Thanks for sharing your struggle. The past few weeks I’ve been praying for God to help me number my days. I feel like I have 2 modes: 90 miles an hour with no rest OR total sloth. 🙂

    I’m such a morning person that I’ve told myself that I can’t really do much after 8 pm. I’m just wiped out, but that’s probably not true. I catch myself watching hours of TV at night, but not really getting around to the writing that God has called me to. Ugh. Pray for me, will you? I know you’re a night writer, so I’ll be thinking of you and trying to channel some of your energy.

    Spring always feels so jam-packed, doesn’t it? Bring on the dog days of summer!

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  2. Wow, powerful words. This is my favorite reminder: “The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day.” Thank you!

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  3. Wow… this is something I struggle with ALL THE TIME… remembering that I am not entitled to call my time my own, or to resent the interruptions God sends to remind me my days really belong to Him. It’s somewhat comforting to know I don’t struggle alone, though it remains one of the issues I have to lay at Jesus feet moment to moment.

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    1. It’s good for me to know I’m not alone, too, in this struggle. Sometimes, when I feel particularly worried about getting everything done that I want to get done, I pray a prayer of relinquishment in the morning—this helps!

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  4. Yes. Yes. Yes. This is my life every day. So much of my day is devoted to caring for my four kiddos. Where oh where is time for me? Thanks for the reminder that life is full of interruptions and to give each day to God to do what he desires with it.

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    1. I wonder if this is more of a problem for our culture in particular. We see some people with the luxury for individual time? We used to have it ourselves, so maybe that’s why we expect it. We’re also so individualistic here. Every culture has its struggle!

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  5. I remember those days as a young mother–trying to get it all done and find even a moment for myself. Even now that my children have left the nest, sometimes I have those moments (usually because I’ve taken on too many projects). Your reminder is right on target–all our moments belong to God. If we could just remember that all the time, I think we would have more patience, tolerance, and love. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. I needed the reminder today, as once again, I had a lot to do, and I know my kids wanted to spend time with me, too. It helped me stay calm and giving with my time when I remembered this post.

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  6. Ah time. You are right, the battle to retain at least some of it as mine is real, especially now that I’m married and have four children and work full time. I’ve often said “the gift of interruptions” should be in the Bible too. Seeing my interruptions as a possible ministry for God can change so much too. Thanks for the reminder!

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