Today, I saw a bluebird on a fence. It hopped along, dancing along the wooden barrier between my backyard and the neighbors. The cheerful little thing made me smile. And I realized that I’ve never seen a bluebird before. I’ve seen pictures of them, and knew of them, but I haven’t ever seen one in real life. At least, not that I’d noticed. To be honest, I rarely see the fence either.
Yesterday evening, I made sopapillas. A few dozen airy clouds of hand-rolled dough, fried to a golden crisp three at a time, then crowned with honey. My husband and two daughters hovered nearby. Too eager to wait for the pastries to cool, they burned their tongues again and again on a nibble of each new batch. In the intervals between, they coordinated who would get the fluffiest of the next trio. It was 8:30 when I started mixing sopapillas at the request of my 15-year-old, who had begged me to make them each day for a week. Day after day where I’d promised “later”, too wrung out from my day’s to-do list to face mixing, kneading, rolling, and frying late into the evening.
The day before yesterday, I strolled into church, cheerful and even on time! I left a tear-streaked, wrung out mess, rocked to my core by a powerful concept. Overwhelmed by its beautiful simplicity, but terrified to step out in faith. Simply put: I can trust Jesus with my time.
Because I write the church emails, I’ve known this teaching was coming. I penciled the sermon series on trust into the email calendar months ago, typing “Trust Jesus With Your Time” into the week’s box. As genuinely excited for the Trust Series as I was, the “time” week didn’t thrill me.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the teaching to have any effect on me. This was going to be one week where my mascara would stay firmly in place instead of marking rivulets down my cheeks. In fact, I was fairly certain that, as a woman who’s spent quite a few Sundays in church, I knew what was coming. Why, even if a case of crippling stage fight struck our pastor, no big deal. I could easily mount the stage and teach on the topic myself. I’ve certainly heard enough sermons on time!
All I’d have to do (all the pastors do it), is bring two jars on stage. I’d fill the first jar with pebbles (or marbles, or sand, whatever), then unsuccessfully try to wrest some larger rocks into the jar. Yet, I would only make a mess (alas!) as the pebbles left no room for much else. Then I would turn to the second jar. This time I would place the largest rocks in first, naming each in turn: prayer, worship, reading the bible, meeting together, family, service. I’d top the whole thing off by pouring the exact amount of pebbles as the first jar held into the second jar. Only, in this jar, they would all fit!, In a powerful finish, I’d pronounce to the congregation that if they prioritize the important things in life above their hobbies and smartphones, they’ll finally please Jesus. Or at least, there will be a lot fewer pebbles littering the path of their Christian walk. Voila!, the secret to holy time management all snugly encased in glass, just in time to wrap up the service.
Easy! Well, except for the part where I slink back to my rubble-strewn existence as a defeated Christian who keeps dropping stones and overflowing her jars, no matter how she prioritizes.
Hallelujah, I was wrong, ya’ll! It’s a good thing my pastor managed without my pinch-hitting because that teaching on time was unlike any I’ve heard from the pulpit. I’ll spare you all the details (though, you can listen to the full teaching here), but I’d like to share some highlights.
- In order to say yes to wise things, you’re going to have to say no to a lot of good things.
- On our own, we don’t do well budgeting our time. We need the Spirit to lead us in spending time.
- Does Jesus serve as an auditor, an advisor, or the controlling partner on decisions about how you spend your time?
That last question shook me to my core. Undoubtedly, in the last two decades, I have learned to trust Jesus more and more with my time. However, I’ve really just shifted him from an auditor to an advisory role.
For many of my early years of Jesus-following, I scrambled to prepare for a visit from the Heavenly auditor. I knew He could show up any moment to check up on me and chide, “You really suck at rock organization, Kate. You’re supposed to be a Christian! What’s your problem?”
More recently, I’ve realized that auditor isn’t the position Jesus wants to fill. In a faith move, I hired Him on as a consultant. Each time I read another of His reports in scripture, I’d attempt to pick up a new rock and wrestle it into my jar. The more good, the better, right? “Thank you for the advice, Jesus!” as I scampered away to attack my rock/jar project with new vigor. I even heeded the wisdom of all those pastors (surely they were speaking for the Lord?), and shunned pebbles in favor of substantial stones.
But managing partner? Gulp! Managing partners have the final say. They determine the goal, and the most effective way to get it accomplished. When an employee’s to-do list doesn’t jibe with the managing partner’s priorities, they’ve got full authority to redirect them. No matter how productive that employee might be, if they aren’t on track with the manager’s agenda, they aren’t doing their job. Even better, a good supervisor utilizes the time and strengths of each employee to the advantage of the company. Employees rushing around, unsure of their roles, trying to do it all, don’t make for a strong organization.
How terrifying to lose control of my rock stacking operation! After all, I’ve been in charge of my time for 42 years now. Sure, I haven’t been managing very well but, no one could say that I didn’t work hard! Really, really hard! But the wisdom my pastor was sharing was undeniable. Jesus knows me intimately. He knows which good things are my good things. Two days ago, as I sobbed through worship, Jesus held out His hands, assuring me, “Here are your rocks. They fit. I promise”
The day before yesterday, I chose to trust Jesus with my time in one small way. After nineteen years of serving faithfully, no matter how exhausted, I stepped down from children’s ministry. Later, I sat outside Costco waiting for a tire change, fighting another wave of tears. I lost the battle when an employee phoned to say I actually needed to replace all of my tires. Two days ago, after realizing I was his son’s Sunday School teacher, the tire center employee embraced me as I wept.
Yesterday, I chose to trust Jesus with my time in a tiny but petrifying way. I did not write a to-do list. Despite my mountainous list of chores. Despite how flaky and flustered and ADHD I am. Despite my decades long enslavement to to-do lists. I chose to say, “Lord, what are we doing today?” Yesterday was productive. I weeded and watered. I cooked for 10 and cleaned my home. I worked on my book and had a new chapter ready for my writing group. I mothered and mothered and mothered. But never once did I rush. I did not multi-task, and I did not spin. I refused the call of the frantic in order to heed the voice of God. Then, last night, at 8:30 pm I did not say no when my 15-year-old asked for sopapillas. I didn’t have to; I wasn’t tired.
Today I stopped to eat lunch. I did not absently shovel food into my mouth while standing at the kitchen counter. I did not wash a single dish or even sweep between bites. I resisted the urge to read a book or work on a cross-sum puzzle as I ate. As scary as it was, I brought my meal to the table with nothing else in my hands. Deliberately savoring each bite of pasta, I thanked God for chicken and for sunshine through the dining-room windows. I took the time to admire the verdant yard, lush after a rare summer of rain. Today, through my dining-room window, I glimpsed a bluebird on the fence.
Today, smack in the middle of the workday, I took a break from writing. With this piece half finished, I stood up, found my purse, and strolled to the car. I did not run out the door, rushing to the grocery store or even Walmart. Instead, I treated myself to the pure joy of shopping for my second grandchild, due in 6 weeks. I meandered through the aisles, stroking plush newborn clothes and deliberating on colors. Neither did I hurry home, though the kids phoned twice as I roamed.
Today, I drove the speed limit down the three-mile stretch of my residential road. As I drove, I did not check my voicemails or use voice-to-text to compose emails. I didn’t even pluck my eyebrows or turn on the radio. Instead, I noticed something. A flutter of dime-sized shadows darted over my windshield. Then another. Then another. Butterflies!
Dozens of small, orange creatures. Then hundreds. Burst after burst of tissue paper wings skittering around my car, all flowing in the same direction. My street flooded with a wave of monarch butterflies.
Today, alone in my car, I laughed aloud in pure joy and wonder. I gasped out a thank you to Jesus for His wondrous grace.
A grace that gladly receives a bit of trust, reluctantly relinquished
And gives fiercely in return.
Bear hugs in the Costco tire center.
Hot sopapillas dripping with honey.
Proud bluebirds strutting on a fence post.
Clouds of brilliant butterflies.