Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An experiment with time...

I closed my eyes briefly as the school bell clanged outside my classroom, signaling the end of another day of teaching. I opened my eyes and quickly pasted a smile on my face as my students filed past. “Goodbye, Teacher,” they called on their way out the door. “See you next week!”
“Have a good weekend!” I replied, my voice cheerful, but inside I felt drained.
I had recently had my teaching assignment changed from teaching a regular ESL class to focusing specifically on writing, and although I enjoyed it, I was having some growing pains getting into the new system of things. I felt as though I needed to spend every possible moment lesson planning, and with much more grading to do than before, plus other responsibilities such as learning the local language, cooking, cleaning my house, and keeping in touch with people back in the West, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. “All I need to do is manage my time better,” I thought…and proceeded to “manage” it… yet my to-do list still seemed to be as long at the end of the day as when I started. My time with God started decreasing as I kept one eye on the clock, ever mindful of all the things I had to cram into my day. Eventually my devotional life fizzled out altogether. I was so tired in the morning that I didn’t get up until the last minute, my day would race away from there, and then at night I’d be so tired again that all I wanted to do was eat and go to bed! I actually felt guilty if I left my office at school to have some quiet time, read a book for a little while, or play the piano in my house – it was a waste of time when I had so much to do. Yet at the end of the day, there was still so much left undone…and time seemed to be racing by so fast that it almost scared me sometimes. One week slipped into another, hastened on by the fact that I always seemed to be anticipating something just ahead or worrying about something else in the future. “I’m not doing this time management thing very well, God,” I almost cried one night, stressed and exhausted. “I can’t go on like this any more.”
Over the next few days, it seemed like God kept telling me, “You need to surrender your time to me. Stop trying to do it yourself. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you…” The thought ran repeatedly through my head. Then the topic of time management and what is really important kept coming up in the group devotions for the team that I work with, and with individual team members as they shared what God had been teaching them. Still, I argued: “God, what you’re asking is impossible. If I take time out of my day for devotions and other stuff, there’s no way I’ll get all my work done!”
Later that day, as one of my housemates stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes and humming happily, I asked her, “How’s you day going?” “Wonderful!” she replied. “I’m doing an experiment. I gave all my time to God today, and decided to let him show me what to do with it, even if I didn’t get everything on my to-do list done. So far, it’s going great! I got all my grading done (and that’s never happened before), I spent time in prayer, I did some stuff for the other team mates…and I feel so…so unstressed! You know, it’s important not to be so busy that you don’t have time to stop and smell the roses along the way.” It was a rebuke to me. What things have I been missing out on because I’ve been so intent on watching the clock and getting everything done? I thought. OK, God, I’ll try this experiment.
So this past week has been my experiment in giving my time to God. I haven’t always got everything I planned accomplished – but that’s OK, because at the same time I’m beginning to learn what is really important. I’ve been taking time out with God, time to listen to and hang out with other people and encourage them, time to play the piano and read a good book and write in my journal, time to enjoy the beauty and quiet of nature. Somehow, in spite of the fact that I’m not constantly slaving away in my office, my classes seem to be going well and my grading is up to date. And I’m a lot less stressed and a lot more happy!
It’s not an easy thing for me to learn to live more in the day…but I am learning… I’m learning in the little experiences of today that God is big enough to handle my worries for tomorrow. I’m learning that the moments truly are beautiful.
“To get all there is out of living, we must employ our time wisely, never being in too much of a hurry to stop and sip life, but never losing our sense of the enormous value of a minute.”
Robert Updegraff

3 comments:

  1. So glad you're gettin' your mojo back! Hehe. It is difficult, isn't it? I've been on a self-imposed vow of creative writing celibacy due to a heavy work-load this term - and I have to say, the dry period was broken just the other night... rather hard to maintain without feeling like I was fundamentally missing something, you know? I'm grateful I took the time out to feel like I was doing something worthwhile just for me that I'll always have - and not for anybody else, or for the immediately necessary. I'm also trying to practice a bit of guitar and learn some Chinese when I can, because the result of my pure, unadulterated work schedule was, for some reason, some rather bizarre dreams involving unconsummated lust!

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  2. lol wow...glad to hear you're taking that time for yourself :) And thanks for posting on my blog... I'm v happy to be getting slowly back into creative writing mode :D

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  3. So true. If my creativity and devotional time are suffering it's usually a time management issue. The other day I would not let myself start the day until I had some quality devotional time. Wow! What a difference it makes. Now I get someone I trust to hold me accountable for keeping me on the track of better time management otherwise I know it will soon revert to what it was before.

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