This is my column in today’s Greenville news, on the topic of time wasted and time well used.
I sometimes sit and think about the things that have wasted my time. It’s a long list, and probably would exceed my word limit for this column. Regret can be very destructive if it isn’t accompanied by change. But as I am trying to change, I feel like it’s alright to list some of the activities that have consumed my precious heartbeats.
For example, there’s worry. I come from a family of worriers, so I’ll claim some environmental and genetic factors. But I also embraced it. From worry about my future and education when younger, all the way through worry about the health and safety of my loved ones and on into worry about the future prospects and safety of my kids, worry has been a dark hobby of mine. More to the point, it has been an idol, before whom I have spent too many long nights in worship. It’s worthless.
Next, said the writer, is communication. Not that communication isn’t important. It’s critically important! I mean pointless communication. For instance, I have used too much time having e-mail arguments with people whose minds I will never change. I have done the same engaging in political debate with opponents on Facebook or some other electronic black hole of time usage.
I’ve wasted time with television, flipping channels as if my body were riveted to my chair and no other option were available. I’m not too much of a television guy, but I’d venture to say that I have, in total, used up weeks to months of otherwise productive life sitting before the glowing box.
A few other things come to mind. For instance, I don’t know how much of my life has been devoted to trying to start small engines. Lawn mowers, weed-trimmers, chain-saws and all the rest have consumed my limited span over and over. Each summer I wonder how many hours will go down the tubes pulling the starter cord, adjusting the choke, checking oil and filters and replacing the string on trimmers. I don’t know how to avoid it, but it still tends to trouble my summer days. Living in the midst of what amounts to a jungle, weeds must be battled. I just haven’t figured out how to make it a fair fight.
I could go on. But it might be better to think about the things that haven’t wasted my time. For instance, dates with my wife, shopping with my wife, talking with my wife or even napping with my wife. Not a one, in all my years with her, has been a waste of time. And playing with my children! Whether board games or word games, whether tag in the pool or Halo 4 on the X-Box, dancing or wrestling, dolls or toy soldiers, not a second has been wasted. Conversations with my wife and kids, in which we discuss everything from daily activities to philosophy and theology, are times that are always valuable. Visiting with parents and grandparents, remembering past times, sharing wisdom and laughter, never a waste of time.
Reading my Bible, prayer, worship, alone or with my church family, or my own family, has always been a worthwhile expenditure of my limited heart-beats on this earth. They make me wiser, kinder, humbler, more loving and more at peace. Reading in general! (I can pretty quickly identify those books or articles that are pointless and I now move on right away.) Reading has never seemed a waste to me.
This list, like the list of wasted time, is pretty exhaustive and could go on. But let me also say that Thanksgiving represents much of what is good in my use of time. Thanksgiving is never a waste. It incorporates time with the people I love, worship and praise for all my blessings. It leads to laughter, games and rest. And it involves food! Preparing, cooking and eating good food is never an abuse of our fleeting time. Turkey, dressing, gravy, assorted casseroles, bread, cranberry (fresh or jellied), pumpkin pie and all the rest are never, ever to be calculated as poor investments of our few decades on earth.
So this Thanksgiving, clean house. (No really, especially kids and husbands, clean house. It will make the ladies happy.) But also, clean house of the things that use your time, and your life, poorly. And focus on the good. You won’t miss the useless stuff. And you’ll have that much more time to give thanks, eat, laugh and nap.