As a mom one of the biggest things that I struggle with is time management. It is natural for me to think that I am being more productive with my time, the more that I accomplish. I love check lists and the more that I check off, the better I feel. Along with this frame of mind is a common saying that haunts me, “God wants us to be good stewards of our time.” This just makes me cringe. You see the problem is that to me this means that I must use every minute of my time in the most efficient way possible to be a good steward of my time. Is that want God really wants from me though? To spent every minute of my time working?
No, I think that is a lie – a lie that I have believed too long.
Recently, my husband and I went on a trip to Ethiopia to meet our newest child.
The year that led up to that trip was full of paperwork, applications, appointments, home re-arranging, and many things that kept me extra busy. In addition to the new tasks I had added, I was still doing the regular stuff like cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, and all the running that comes with a busy homeschool family. Although I desperately wanted to stop, rest and just enjoy some time with my children, I kept thinking that what I needed to do was finish the work and then I could rest. The problem is that the extra work continued for a year (and is still going). Without realizing what I was doing I apparently thought that I could just put my family time on hold and finish my work first. I thought that I was being a good steward of my time, but it felt miserable. I was still spending time with my children; it was just more scheduled and restricted. They were fit into my work schedule instead of fitting my work in after my time with my children.
Then the year came full circle when we went to Ethiopia. Life there is so different.
The people there were not worried with time. With no choice in the matter, we were late to almost everything. In their culture that seemed to be expected as long as you are with the people who you care about and are building relationships. For example, on Sunday morning we were to be picked up at 9am. When our new friends arrived at almost 10am they were not concerned of the time like we would be in the states. As a matter of fact when the guest house hostess asked one of them (they were friends) if he wanted to have a cup of coffee, he took her up on the offer and they spent a few minutes chatting and catching up and laughing before we even left for church. Of course my husband and I were so lost. We were still on American time where every minute counts and to some people it is more important to be on time than it is to take the time to listen to a friend and ask how their life is over a cup of coffee. We kept wondering if we should say something thinking that we were so very late for church, but all was fine. It turns out that since it was cold and rainy church started late. The lesson that we learned was the most important one of all, and one that we have not quickly forgotten.
As I return to life in North America, I have decided that maybe it is not God’s plan for me to be a good steward of my time by spending it accomplishing tasks that just won’t matter in a few years, months, days, or even hours. Maybe what God really wants from me is to be more like Jesus; to make time for the people on the streets like I don’t have anywhere to be, or in my case the children in my home. The work will wait.
Come see how I’ve been spending my time over at monicaheffner.com.