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)