I’ve heard a voice most of my adult life. I sometimes can’t tell if it’s God, Satan, me, my mother or my former boss. I can’t tell if it’s a product of my upbringing, my temperament, or my season of life.
Maybe I hear it because I experienced the sudden death of my oldest son. Maybe it’s because our nation is in a perpetual state of hurry, and we are trying desperately (and rightfully) to put on the brakes. Maybe it’s because half the songs on Christian radio, nearly every Focus on the Family broadcast and about one out of ten e-mail forwards I receive reminds me.
Maybe it’s because I have this scripture taped to my kitchen cupboard—the first thing I read every single morning and my focus for all of 2010:
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
The voice I hear day and night, night and day says this:
“Use your time wisely.”
“Don’t waste your life.”
“Slow down before today becomes yesterday”
“Live like you are dying.”
“Keep your priorities in order.”
“Your kids are only little once.”
“It will be there tomorrow.”
“You aren’t promised tomorrow.”
It’s all wonderful, godly and true—and somewhat contradictory. Every one of us needs to hear this message sometimes. But for me, it’s become more than a message. It’s become an obsession. In a bad way.
Allow me for a moment to take you on a little journey into the deepest places of my brain so I can show you exactly what I mean. Shield your eyes, kids…it’s scary in here!
Every Friday evening I go to bed, looking forward to Saturday morning. I *heart* Saturday mornings. It’s Friday right now, and right now, I’m already excited about Saturday morning. See, I get up at o’-dark-thirty every day during the week. However, I happen to be a girl who has a love affair with sleep. Also, for the first time in 13 years of parenting, all of my kids are self-sufficient enough to get out of bed, turn on the TV and grab an unhealthy breakfast. In addition, Jon likes to get up early and go on insanely long bike rides every Saturday. These factors combined leave me the luxury of sleeping in and enjoying a very quiet
cup pot of coffee. Maybe catch up on blog reading. Maybe answer a few longer e-mails.
But my brain has a way of turning it ugly.
Inevitably, every Saturday morning, after sleeping in and enjoying my quiet pot of coffee, I look at the clock and realize I’ve wasted four-or-so precious Saturday morning hours on sleep, caffeine and the computer. Then I feel guilty. Then I panic, because time is slipping from my hands like sands through the hourglass. I immediately start planning how I’m going to spend the rest of my Saturday, so that I don’t waste it and use the time wisely, while still attempting to slow down and live like I’m dying. Because it will be there tomorrow…or not.
Do I tackle a house project that is impossible to do during the week?
Do we blow off all house projects and head out to do something fun as a family?
Do I take advantage of Daddy being home from work and get a huge chunk of writing done?
Do I blow off writing, grab a good book, and sit on the deck to relax while the children engage in some carefree (albeit scheduled and forced) play?
Do we invite someone over for dinner, in the name of building community and relationships?
Do I go skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbing and do 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu?
What IS the best use of this one-and-only day that’s slipping through my hands like sand so that I slow down and use my time wisely and live like I’m dying?!?!?
Then, all good intentions askew, I am so scared of spending the time wrongly, I become completely paralyzed.
It’s not just Saturday’s, though. I go through the same thing while Elliana is at Mother’s Day Out for four hours, two times a week. Or when magically, all the children are content and fed and I find myself with a surprise block of time. Or Sunday afternoon after church. Or every day of summer break. Or any random Wednesday. Or Thursday.
This isn’t a “sometimes” thing for me. On some level, I struggle with this every. single. day. It’s like it’s encoded into my DNA.
And here’s the scariest part of all: No matter what I choose to do, I have this nagging feeling like I chose incorrectly. Like I missed it. Like there is something “else” out there. Like there was a better use of my time. A greater opportunity for making memories or relaxing or being productive or building community. Even if I do build a memory or wipe out some major project, I fear it was not giving God the glory He deserves. Like I buried my talent.
I feel like I’m in chains, and, quite honestly, I’m sick of it.
At the very root of my fear, is the most gut-wrenching desire to please God in every single thing I do. More than A-NY-THING, I want to be a good steward of every talent, resource and gift He has so graciously lavished on me. My goal in life (seriously) is to stand in His presence and hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Makes me cry, just typing that.
So, I wonder…when I feel the constant urgency to spend my time wisely…who is speaking to me, exactly? Is it God, or not?
I think it really stinks that something which begins as such a pure motive can be twisted and mutated into something else—something that sucks the very joy from life. I shouldn’t be surprised when this happens, actually. Satan has been using this tactic, literally, since the beginning of time. Remember the way he took God’s good and pure instructions to Adam and Eve, and he twisted them into something that sounded like bondage? Remember when he approached Jesus during a 40-day fast and used the very words of God to tempt Jesus (!!!) to sin?
If he has the audacity to tempt the Living Word of God with the written word of God, who am I to think I’m exempt from a similar temptation?
So, it is, with much prayer, studying and chats with other godly friends, that I attempt to identify this voice and break free from the bondage it brings. Though this issue is far from resolved in me, I do think God has recently shed some light on it. Here’s what I know for sure:
1. There is nothing wrong with wanting to please God with my time, gifts and talents. That’s a good thing.
(See the parable of the talents beginning at Matthew 25:14)
2. Jesus came to set me free and give me life to the fullest.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
3. I never have to worry about my life, or anything, really.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” (Matthew 6:25)
4. If I ask God to lead me every day, He will.
“I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.” (Proverbs 4:11)
5. When I hear a voice of accusation day and night, it’s NOT God.
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers,who accuses them before our God day and night,has been hurled down.” (Revelation 12:10)
I love the way God’s word cuts through the confusion, bringing instant clarity and peace, don’t you? Even though I have a long way to go, I’m confident God is in the process of cutting some chains in me. And that, right there, brings God glory.
Do you get confused with all the voices you hear? Which one is God? Which one is Satan? Which one is my flesh? Which one is the world? Then stay tuned for an upcoming re-post on “The Other Voices.”