For the last three weeks, I’ve been working at my old job (the one I quit to get my master’s degree). Within one hour of my first day back, I remembered why I quit. Every morning of those two years, I prayed that God would help the hours go by fast, that He would cause interruptions to break up the monotony, and that my evenings at home would pass by slowly. And God faithfully answered those prayers.
I remember one particularly interrupted morning: I arrived at 7:00 to get some extra hours in and proceeded to make a pot of coffee with another woman in my pod. The regular coffee maker was not at work yet so we proceeded to make coffee without supervision or instruction. We put twelve scoops of coffee into the filter and waited impatiently for the liquid heaven to finish brewing. What I poured into my mug fifteen minutes later was medical-school sludge. But I was awake for the next two hours. So was the boss a few doors down.
Another afternoon was interrupted with practical jokes involving spicy Korean chocolate and constantly running to the bathroom for water.
These are the moments I remember, moments of joy.
After I quit working at this company, my sister started working there. She and I occasionally take our ten-minute breaks together and walk around the building. One afternoon she commented, “I wish life would slow down. I wish we weren’t always in a hurry to get somewhere. I wish I didn’t have to get up in the morning and rush out the door to get to work by 8:00. I wish we didn’t have to get home and rush through supper in order to meet our next commitment at 7:00. I don’t have time to enjoy life.” Jokingly, I responded that she has two options: get up earlier in the morning or move overseas. (Why are Americans always in such a hurry? Why don’t we ever slow down and breathe?)
The Lord created Time on this earth, and He created it to be good. He wants us to use Time wisely, and I believe He wants us to enjoy the Time we have.
I’ve observed three truths over the last three weeks about how people enjoy their Time:
1) People who do not enjoy their Time will waste their Time.
I interact with a girl everyday who wastes Time. The issue is not that she has nothing to do with her Time. The issue is not that she has too much to do with her Time. The issue is that she does not enjoy how her job requires that she spend her Time. I empathize with the struggle. Of course there are days when I want to binge-watch Netflix or stay in bed reading August Strindberg instead of doing my job. Of course there are days when the commitments squeezed into every hour of my calendar are overwhelming and daunting and depressing. Of course there are days when I don’t want to fulfill my responsibilities: who enjoys washing dishes? who enjoys creating lesson plans? who enjoys writing papers? But the responsibilities of work are not a punishment from God on sinful people. Work was created to be a blessing. The blessing is there if we take the Time to see.
2) People enjoy their Time when they are fellowshipping. (I feel this term needs defining):
I became acquainted with a Christian periodical recently that discusses mundane activities with intelligence and clarity. While reading one article about potluck dinners, I realized that I can glorify the Lord with what I put into my mouth and chew. Maybe eating a snack isn’t amoral. Maybe exercising (or not exercising) is a religious activity. In another article I read, the author states that her favorite time of week is when she leaves the kids at home and exercises at a gym (you mean her favorite time of week isn’t going to church?)! Finally, a woman after my own heart. While I don’t enjoy exercising, I also don’t enjoy church. I haven’t enjoyed it since my family left the church I grew up in.
When this woman exercises, she knows she isn’t where she needs to be fitness-wise, but she wants to get there. She knows she won’t get the rhythm exactly right and won’t be able to do all fifteen burpees, but she will be improving each day. She isn’t responsible for anyone’s performance except her own. She has a support group of humans (fallible) in different stages of fitness who are also working to improve their own performances. In short, she has found a community of people who are honest with themselves and each other as they encourage each other to “get fit” in the Time they have together (the definition of fellowship).
But so often in church, I sit in the pew, fully knowing what unconfessed sin is lurking, and put a smile on my face while gratifying myself with a deep concern for the girl two rows down who spent too much time applying cosmetics in the bathroom. I justify my own sin by comparing my white lie with the affair of the woman sitting three rows behind me. I forget the ugliness of my insides while my outsides look impeccable. I congratulate myself that my children aren’t running around the auditorium. My daughter isn’t hanging on a boy during the service. My son is wearing a suit coat and tie. But my children don’t know Jesus. My daughter watches movies she shouldn’t watch. My son is rebellious and disrespectful. I am addicted to gossip.
How can there be community when we won’t be honest with ourselves or with each other? (One of the missionaries I pray for emailed me an update of his ministry, and in his prayer-request section, he wrote that he would like prayer for his marriage. He and his wife recently reconciled after a fight that lasted three weeks, and he is more than ever aware of how much he needs prayer to love his wife as Christ loves the church. My first reaction, TMI! But is this not the vulnerability and accountability we need in order to grow as believers?) True fellowship cannot exist when our Time together is wasted on fluff instead of the honest nitty-gritty. More on this struggle at a later time.
3) People make the choice to enjoy their Time.
Because of Memorial Day, I was given the blessing of extra Time (or so I thought). I dived headfirst into the long weekend with plans for how I’d spend that Time: a little extra sleep, a little more exercise, a little more coffee, a little more Netflix, and a lot more lesson planning. On Friday I had a migraine so all my plans got dumped on Saturday. By the time I finished a little extra sleep, a little more exercise, and a little more coffee, the day was over and I hadn’t hit my lesson plans. And despite Sunday being the day of rest, it is never restful. I went to church with my parents and enjoyed the afternoon fellowship with them while I did my laundry. I was in good spirits and agreed to go with my sister to her Sunday-school fellowship in the evening. (I mean, it’s free food!) But two hours of lack-of-fellowship got me altogether grumpy and fit for nothing but Netflix. Once again, lesson plans got pushed to the next day. All Monday morning and afternoon, I worked diligently on lesson plans. I worked myself into another migraine. In the evening we had a cookout with my family, the whole family, and almost instantaneously my migraine was gone and I didn’t care that I hadn’t finished my to-do list . . . because I was enjoying my Time with my family.
I finally finished scouring through books last night and now have only to create Power Points for each lesson. But I enjoyed my Time spent studying last night. Not because of an added blessing like pizza or tea or cheesecake. In fact, I had a headache after work yesterday, too. But I took the Time to remember why I was studying. I took the Time to remember why I love the work God has called me to. I took the Time to remember that a life lived without passion is not worth living. I took the Time to remember that I love being alive.
So I chose Joy. And the great thing about Joy is that it sneaks up on you when you least expect it.