FIRST-PERSON: Our schedules, an idol?

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (BP) -- For a growing number of people time is actually more precious than money.

Many of us fill our days running here and there trying to keep up with our overcrowded calendars. Sometimes I wonder if Americans have made an idol of being busy.

We tend to think that the busier we are, the more important we are. Many of us equate activity with productivity or our level of value. Christians can be as guilty of this as our non-believing friends.

Sometimes we are busy doing all the wrong things or sometimes our activity accomplishes very little because we approach it in such a disorganized way. It is a mistake to equate our schedules with our self-importance, our productivity or our value because our value comes in the fact that we are created in God's image, and that Christ died for us to be reconciled to God.

This does not mean that we should throw out our calendars. What it means is that we should evaluate our schedules by the measure of verses like Ephesians 5:15-16: "Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil" when spent in self-absorbed living. The truth of these verses can help us determine if there are things we should cut out to make our lives less busy so we can focus on the things that matter most, such as our spiritual walk with God and our family.

At some point we must ask ourselves if the things that fill our schedules really have meaning or whether we signed up for them because everyone else did. We may not like all the answers we come up with, but in the end the result will be a less hectic life that is full of value, meaning and purpose.

For those of us who are Christians, before we add one more thing to our schedules, we should take time to ask if that activity fits God's plan for our lives. Will that activity draw us closer to Christ or push us further away?

I recall a young family in one church I served as pastor. The wife was a Sunday School teacher. At the time the husband was not a believer though he did come to church fairly often. As their children grew older, they became involved in a variety of extra-curricular activities. The mother volunteered for a number of extra activities at the school. She also volunteered for leadership positions in two community groups. None of these activities were bad. In fact, some were quite healthy and it was good for their family to be involved in them.

But as they continued to add things to their calendar, their schedule became so full that the family's church attendance went from almost every week to about once every six to eight weeks. At the end of the Sunday School year the mother gave up her Sunday School class because she was just "too busy to do everything."

I vividly recall her husband's comment after she resigned: "I think she is giving up the wrong thing." I found his comment quite insightful since he was not a believer.

Clearly something needed to be eliminated from her calendar, but it should not have been her service to the Lord. That family eventually dropped out of church altogether and is no longer active in the life of any church. Overcrowded schedules pulled them away from their faith and did little to enhance their family bonding. All it did was overstress them. Sadly, I see it happening more and more in the typical American Christian family.

We must decide what is important to us. Then we must allocate time -- perhaps our most precious commodity -- to reflect our values. If we fail to do this, we will find ourselves busier than ever but with little or nothing to show for it.

Lord, help us evaluate our schedules and make adjustments that are healthy for who You are calling us to be. Amen.

Terry W. Dorsett, online at thoughtsfromdrt.blogspot.com, is executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England.
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