IF there is a God and
IF our relationship to God is that we are God’s children and
IF as any true parent has aspirations for a child, God has a plan for us, and
IF that plan is to learn and
IF the thing we are to learn is joy (different than happiness) and
IF the choices we make occur in real time, one day at a time, and
IF there are things we must-do for survival and
IF these must-do activities do not take up all our time
THEN we also have optional time.
IF ALL THAT IS TRUE, and I believe it is,
THEN it’s pretty amazing that with all the time we have, so little of it is free time.
In other words, if you’re on board with all of the above, the system in place, this Plan of Joy, requires that we stay very busy with the must-do’s just to stay alive.
Our TIME is a MERCY
As much as I hate it, I think it is wonderful that we have hardly any free time at all.
I will go so far as to say I believe it is merciful that time required to perform the must-do’s outweighs the discretionary time or free time.
Here is where I will lecture you on something you already know:
I get ready for bed, sleep, and get ready for the day in about 8 of those 24 hours.
I look for, prepare, and eat about three meals a day which takes roughly 2 hours. (I eat slower than the persons represented in the graph.)
I drive to work and then perform the duties and responsibilities my job requires for roughly 10 of those hours.
Ideally, I should exercise in one of those hours (see next section).
Which means I have roughly five hours, scattered throughout the day, never all in one stretch, to devote to optional activities.
After all my commitments to family, church, and community are finished, my precious free time is really not much time at all.
So when choices must be made, we have time to consider them. If we don’t spend adequate time in 1 – 4 above, our judgment will fall short. If we use the remaining 1/6 of our day poorly, again, our judgment will fall short.
And since good judgment is key to our learning JOY, then how we manage our time determines, to a large extent, our success in that endeavor.
I look at the 5/6 of my day as a mercy, that God has structured a system where we are never quite free enough. Free enough to screw up, is what I mean. That when I make choices in my free time, I will learn through trial and error to use that time wisely in order to bring the kind of fulfillment that leads to joy.
Everything else is stuff I have to do. Like writing this blog.
BODY and MERCY
All of a sudden, the thought of getting older has me very motivated to take better care of my body.
Being alone for a week in July while my family was out of town gave me the perfect opportunity to use my “discretionary time” to workout. I have never been consistent with that and I now have the desire to be more consistent. I’ve had the desire before, now it’s an increased desire.
I do best when I make a goal to do something DAILY as opposed to narrowing it to two or three times a week. So during that week and a half, I ran every day. I went to the gym every day. I am no body builder but I did enjoy lifting while listening to a backlog of podcasts.
The first day at the gym was a Thursday or Friday. I think it was a Friday. The rest of the weekend that followed, I couldn’t straighten my arms. It had been awhile since I had lifted more than the weight of my children and I paid the price.
One night that weekend, I felt some muscle pain in my right shoulder. On Monday, I texted my amateur body builder brother and asked his opinion about whether I should work out that day. He said I should work out through the pain and that I would feel better as I lifted.
Sure enough, it all happened just as he said.
How did I live for 38 years and not learn this fact? Imagine all the other fundamentally basic life skills I still don’t understand. When I felt muscle pain before, I would rest. That was the wrong thing to do.
And that got me thinking about mercy, too.
For thousands of years, we humans worked with our muscles to eat our bread. Today, my pointer finger on the mouse in the air conditioned office doesn’t necessarily break a sweat on my brow.
Our bodies are creations of mercy.
Imagine the farmer plowing the field in the Spring who worked so hard in the field he couldn’t straighten his arms that night. He goes to bed wondering how he will finish the job the next day, a job that must be done. If he doesn’t do it, no one will. If he doesn’t do it, his crop could die. He finds that through more work the next day, he is able to regain his strength.
Our body repairs itself through more work. It is counter-intuitive.
Our body is a mercy.
I’ve mentioned only two examples of mercy, one about the time we have and the other about our bodies. There are countless more mercies that bless our lives, many of which I am probably unaware.
I realize there are a multitude of caveats to what I’ve said above, like the fact that if your collar bone really hurts maybe you broke it and should not use it for awhile. But in most cases, I think I’m on the right track.
I hope that it makes you appreciate a little more the body you don’t want to use and the time you don’t have.