I read an alarming study yesterday that indicated that most professionals admit to wasting an hour every day at work. A handful of respondents (4%) even said they waste up to four hours a day! It really got me thinking about how time, which is precious and in short supply even to the fabulously wealthy, is also incredibly easy to throw away.
The smallest things matter just as much
This time of year, with cold, wet weather, the post-holiday blues, and work and school piling up, can be a total drag. But what if one of these mundane, tedious mid-winter days actually turned out to be the most important day of your life? What if you have an opportunity to say something at just the right moment, to call someone up out of the blue, to meet your soul mate, to save a life or change one? Maybe you won’t even have any idea that you did anything at all out of the ordinary, but you did something incredible. Maybe, when you’re called before God at the end of time, and he’s looking over your record on earth, the thing that catches His eye will happen on a dull winter day when you mostly just slogged to class and back.
I’ll give you an example. Years ago, my dad went back to visit relatives in his hometown and while he was there he got the idea to write a letter thanking a lady who taught him in Sunday school when he was a little kid, decades ago. He sent her the letter and didn’t think of it again until 20 years had passed. He was back in town for a visit again and he heard that the woman had passed away, and that at her funeral she had the little letter of appreciation my dad offhandedly wrote to her read. He told me he was incredulous that she’d even kept track of it for two decades, let alone found it important enough to have read at her funeral. The tiny interactions you and I have with others every day could be just the same way. You never know when a person who remembers a kind word or thoughtful gesture from you might draw encouragement through a tough time because of something that took you 5 seconds. Or when a quick little prayer you make on a whim might save a life.
I recently interviewed the author of a book about caring for dementia patients. Her husband died of his illness after eight exhausting years, but she said she learned over the course of the disease that there are treasures along the way, and if you look for them, you’ll find a lot more. I think it’s the same way with our days. If we spend our time scrolling listlessly through Instagram, dreaming of far-off summer, we might very well miss those opportunities to do something that seems small but makes a big difference to someone else, or even our future selves. I’d hate to have a list of all the opportunities to do something good I’ve missed because I was watching a dumb video on YouTube, or procrastinating at work. (Looking for some specific ways to do more good? Check out some easy ideas here.)
Importance looks different from an eternal perspective
We also need to remember that heaven and earth count importance differently. Maybe in a temporal sense, today or tomorrow or yesterday really aren’t that important. If your week is going anything like mine, you didn’t win the lottery, land your dream job, get married, or cure cancer this week. Heck, I’m just relieved that I’m finally over my cold! But maybe in God’s eyes, you’ve done or will do something incredible this week. I have a newfound sense of wonder about the opportunities that each and every day provides now that I’m trying to take off my earthly blinders and look at each day as a fresh set of choices sent by God, to me, to use for His glory and the good of others.
What if we lived that way every day? What if people at work and school and volunteer activities and the gym and everything noticed Christians because they always seem to be making the most of every moment? What if we, as a fellowship of believers, had a reputation for always treating the time that God has given us as the previous gift that it is?
As John Wesley famously said,
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
Now, I’m not knocking much-needed rest and relaxation. In fact, as the snow falls outside my window, I’m wearing a comfy sweatshirt and skipping a day at the office as I write these words. But what I am saying is that maybe we’re busy and efficient in the wrong way, at least sometimes. There are gazillions of scholarly articles and studies that will prove to you that the average American is too busy, too rushed, too sleep deprived, and too overworked. I’m not advocating a decline in rest and margin in our lives. But maybe we can cut out some of the things that we do every day that aren’t doing us any good in an eternal sense and start looking for ways to do more good, especially the small good that so easily gets squeezed out of our lives. Chances are you’re not going to forget about that mission trip to Africa or fail to provide support to your friend whose mom is deathly ill — but if you’re human, you probably sometimes forget to pray for the kid who looks depressed or send a note of encouragement to your classmate who has a cold or flunked a test.
So that’s my challenge to each of, not least of all myself, this winter: To remember that at any given moment, we could be living or about to live the most important moment of our lives.