Over the last few weeks I asked friends to reflect upon 2018, specifically upon areas of their lives they thought were good, not so great and those they want to improve. Most importantly, and probably the most difficult, I urged them to dive into the their spiritual walk and to honestly assess the prioritization of their relationship with God this past year. We then shared our responses with each other, hoping to provide accountability, prayer support and continual encouragement throughout the upcoming year.
After prayer and meditation, I asked them to consider the following list of areas to set “goals” for 2019:
1) Sanctification (How can I become more like Jesus?)
2) Word for the Year /Bible Verse
4) Personal Growth
5) Health/Exercise Goal
To give you a point of reference, these were my own responses:
1) Sanctification — Memorize one verse of Scripture a week.
2) Word/Verse — ABIDE
You will seek Me and sind me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
4) Personal — Relinquish attaching my total sense of self-worth to productivity and achievement.
3) Family — Accept the present over the perfect — throw away “mom guilt,” and be “in the moment” while with my husband and daughters.
5) Health/ Exercise — Break the cycle of emotional eating and run a 5K.
Soon after receiving responses to this challenge, I realized that we all seem to struggle to have a daily quiet time with the Lord. Among all of our “responsibilities,” we struggle a good deal with scheduling time to be with our Heavenly Father, often not even praying for days, only opening our Bibles on Sundays.
Why the quotations around the word, responsibilities? Because often we BELIEVE we are busier than we ACTUALLY are day to day. So, what do I mean by that?
For the most part, our lives are divided into two categories: negotiable and non-negotiable. Non-negotiable categories include family, job, health and faith. Negotiable categories include areas like social media, entertainment, excess overtime at work and play (hobbies). Decisions about where and how we spend our time typically fall into these two buckets (not always, but you get the point).
As I began to dig into why we claim to lack “time” to devote strictly to the Lord by reading His Word and talking to Him in prayer (aka having “devotions” or “quiet time”), I concluded that it simply boils down to misprioritization.
While in sales, one activity we did a few times a year was keeping an hour by hour track of where we spent our time. It was, to say the least, painful, but boy, was it ever an eye opener. When using this tool TRUTHFULLY, which only works by accurately recording ALL activities, even when they don’t look so great, it clearly points out the reality of how we used our time, not how we perceived we used our time. Only then could we pat ourselves on the back and perhaps give ourselves a little more room to breath, but in most cases, this exercise revealed the need to devise a plan that reduced losing valuable time that could be better spent elsewhere.
I have actually practiced this a few times since leaving the workforce full-time, and it has really helped me in my home life as well. This is not an exercise to make you feel bad about yourself if you aren’t productive every minute. Instead, I pray it will draw your attention to space on your daily calendar to free up in order to schedule time to commune with God.
Looks pretty intimidating, doesn’t it? Use this tool for a week and be honest with yourself, which means if you spent two hours on Facebook, put it on there, and if you binged on Netflix, put it on there, too. This is for YOU. Another tip is to let this week be a normal, routine week: do not try to be extra productive or overly attentive because you know you have to list every activity on this grid.
After you have completed your week, take time to reflect on where and how you used your time. Ask yourself:
What consumed the majority of my time? Was it the right amount? (look at this against the goals you have for your life above)
What were your time wasters? Can you mitigate these activities or possibly outsource them to others?
Did you make time for what you say is most important to you? (God, family, relationships, self-care)
Where can you pull back, lean in, or perserve by keeping the same or slightly modified schedule?
I encourage you to repeat this exercise when you feel you are getting off track, especially spiritually, but also when you feel your life is in constant conflict and chaos. In other words, a bit out of control. Just as Paul encouraged the Corinthians, we must live our lives in light of God’s grace and mercy. ( Romans 12: 1) One of the Enemy’s most effective weapons is distraction, so stay focused on God’s call to fight the good fight and to finish the race He set before us.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 ESV