Originally posted on Facebook–September, 2011
Maybe it’s just me, but the responsibilities of life seem to occupy twenty-five hours of the day. Margin only seems to apply to the space between the edge of a sheet of paper and the typeface—and even that has diminished! With the advent of the Facebook era, there is always some event on the horizon, asking me if I am “attending,” “not attending,” “maybe attending”—and if I choose to be negligent, it is “awaiting response.” If I decide to pass on one event, there are usually multiple alternatives. Occasionally, people will send an e-mail, or an evite, or—get this—call; asking me to invest my time with them. Word-of-Mouth has been amplified through social networking; requiring me to filter through the clutter and be intentional with how I prioritize my time and make commitments. And if you don’t request my time with at least three weeks advance notice, it’s quite possible that I’m already booked!
As a result, the popular word nowadays is “balance,” yet I know less-and-less people who profess to actually accomplish it within their lives. In our shrinking world, where I can just as easily reach out to friends in VA as I can in Atlanta, I ironically feel stretched for time. Words that signify strong bonds, such as “family” and “friends,” are expanded to regularly include what used to be referred to as “acquaintances.” In the process, it becomes harder to say one of two powerful words: “Yes” or “no.”
Growing up, my father –having served in the military—emphasized that on-time meant you were to be early. Lately, I feel as though I am running from one commitment to the next, lucky if I am able to arrive “a little late.” I am warned in scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:14, 1 Timothy 5:13, Revelation 21:8) to not be idle; however, there is a need to use that time wisely and with good intentions (Psalm 34:14). Sometimes, I need to wisely seek refuge from the opportunities availed to me by the world, lest I be the fool and suffer for it (Proverbs 22:3).
What seems to get lost in the shuffle of responsibilities, obligations, and commitments is the need to love. If life was only about maintaining an air-tight schedule of activities, then God would have been better suited handing dominion of this world over to computers—man is working towards that end as it is!
Maintaining a level of structure and discipline is good practice for living in obedience, but within that structure and discipline, so too must there be flexibility to love with impulsive joy:
…Jesus is saying there is a real place for the impulsive and spontaneous, the lavish and impractical, the heroic and extraordinary, the unrestrained and incalculable bursts of generosity that cry out, “It is right to give You thanks and praise.” Yet our gratitude to Jesus is, for the most part, our unsung service to those around us. “In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). ~ Ragamuffin Gospel
One of the most referenced parables in the Bible emphasizes such need for impulsive love. The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) highlights the Samaritan’s spontaneous change of plans to lovingly meet the serious and immediate needs of another. The “righteous” people of that time, not only continued past the beaten man, but avoided proximity to him so as to not become ceremonially “unclean,” and prohibiting them from participating in temple worship.
How often, I wonder, do I get caught up in lesser things when the opportunity to serve a greater need exists? How frequently do I lose sight of the end destination by focusing on the immediate clutter surrounding me? When do I fail to see the opportunity to love because I feel the weight of prior commitment? When do I use the convenient excuse of my schedule to avoid serving the difficult neighbor? When do I justify sins of omission through participating in the worldly lie of the daily grind?
There should be margin in my life…for quiet time with God…for genuine and invested relationship with others…for observing Sabbath…for doing what is right instead of what is convenient or preferred.
I must remind myself that my time is not mine, but His…requiring a willingness to impulsively and spontaneously serve in love when the need arises.