Every August my family starts making choices about time. Schedules for the upcoming school year get formed based on school, work and social calendars. When will the Spring recital be? On what day of the week does Christmas Eve fall this year? How do I keep from working more than 3 nights a week? As parents, Carla and I begin by sorting through the necessities of our work schedules; and continuing education dates; and special retreats or family/work celebrations at which one of us needs to be present. Then, we sit the kids down and ask them to prioritize their desired activities. Dance, football, swimming, karate, volleyball and gymnastics will begin the conversation that will lead to band, choir, orchestra, basketball, soccer, baseball and other clubs they may want to do. As we sort through their greatest desires for activities, we will ask questions like, “How will you get to this or that activity? How much does it cost? Can we make this happen for you and you and you?” But will we remember the Sabbath? Will we honor God’s desire for us to rest?
In the midst of our fall planning, I remember that I will be taking a three-month sabbatical beginning in January and ending before Easter in April. The family and I will share those 3 months in the Bahamas. They will remain 3 more months to be there for a complete ‘semester’ of school for the kids, even after I return to serve First through the Easter season. The focus of my sabbatical is time. The theme for the congregation this program year (which starts next month at First Fest, Sept 11. Save the date!) is “The Time of Your Life.” How do we use the time of our lives? What questions do we ask as we sit down around a family table and figure out what the family schedule will look like in a coming year? Do we put time aside to rest? Ever? Do we secure time for each other? For our relationship with God to exist? Do couples schedule dates? Do parents and kids plan for one-on-one time? My family and many others will put thousands of miles on two vehicles that will rarely leave the La Crosse area. While I oftentimes feel lucky to be able to provide my kids with so many opportunities to learn new skills and life lessons through extra curriculars, sometimes I feel like a gerbil spinning inside a wheel.
Like many others, my family’s goal in discerning the use of our precious time is balance. We seek to strike a balance between time apart and time together; between time using our brains and time using our bodies; between time being active and time for rest. Elders keep telling me that these are the ‘good old days’ for me as my kids are 11, 9 and 6. And I believe these are indeed good old days. I also believe there are many good days to come. But what makes days good for me is a balance, not just endless activity done to meet the requirements of a coach, studio, school or workplace.
I pray that all who are creating schedules for their lives this month are led by God’s desire for us to rest amidst our many activities. We can choose abundant life—and we do enjoy true abundance in this area! But we can also choose gerbil lives that exhaust us and twist the Time of our Life into the Stress of our Life. Do remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.