Redeem the Time
Jim and Ingrid were under a lot of stress. Jim was on the road nursing a fledgling music career, and Ingrid was home with their young son, A.J. The marriage had gotten a bit rocky, but before his last concert Jim wrote a letter to Ingrid vowing to make a fresh start when he returned home. His letter concluded:
“I now want to be the oldest man around, a man with a face full of wrinkles and lots of wisdom. So this is a birth note, Baby. And when I get back everything will be different.
We’re gonna have a life together, Ing, I promise. I’m gonna concentrate on my health. I’m gonna become a public hermit. I’m gonna get my Masters Degree. I’m gonna write short stories and movie scripts. Who know, I might even get a tan.
Give a kiss to my little man and tell him Daddy loves him. Remember, it’s the first sixty years that count and I’ve got thirty to go.
I love you, Jim”
Sadly, Jim never got the chance to start over, to dedicate himself to his marriage and family and create a life out of the limelight. His plane crashed on departure from a concert in Louisiana. Jim Croce was only 30 years old.
We all know what procrastination is; we’ve all been guilty of it, and we would all probably admit that it is something we don’t like about ourselves. Why is that? Consider the following:
Our days are limited. Every tick of the second hand, every passing hour, day, month and year incrementally shortens our life. “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only of labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away … So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:10, 12). When we squander our valuable time on frivolous or wasteful activities, we are trading precious time for what is relatively meaningless.
Having said that, “down time” – recreation, hobbies, etc. – are not inherently sinful and can provide healthy distraction from stress and recharge our emotional and mental batteries. Even Jesus directed the apostles to accompany Him for a period of rest from kingdom work (Mk 6:31). But we would do well to carefully analyze how we spend our time during the average week and ask ourselves how much time is being allocated to spiritual undertakings and relationship building.
We get our priorities messed up. Our world is one of options and the wherewithal to implement whatever option we choose. When everything is on offer, it is hard to say, “No, if I do that, it will interfere with what is truly important.” We stray when we deliberately and perhaps consistently choose the empty and mundane over the important and eternal. So much to learn, to do, to explore, to experience – and so little time.
But Jesus cautions us: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt 6:33). This is said in the context of worry, undue focus upon and anxiety over the physical necessities of life which God, in His wisdom and generosity, promises to provide for all – even the birds which “neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them” and the “lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet … eve Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Mt 6:26, 28-29). Deep down inside we know that our priorities are askew, but it is hard to regain control of our lives once that control has been ceded to our schedule and trivial pleasures. Important things are neglected, and we lose respect for ourselves for not focusing on the vital things of life.
We don’t always get do-overs. Some things can be corrected, damage repaired and life continues with a few scars, perhaps, but no great harm done. However, some things lost to procrastination cannot be recovered: children grow up; friendships fade away; marriages wither and die; failure in the family disqualifies from the eldership; the mind grows duller, less able to absorb and retain Bible knowledge; interest in spiritual things wanes due to neglect, etc. Use it or lose it, we rightly say.
So, what’s the antidote to procrastination? The NT counsels us to: give diligence (2 Pet 1:5, 10; 3:14; Heb 4:11); exercise self-control (Gal 5:23; 2 Pet 1:6); be proactive (Mt 5:23-26); redeem the time available (Eph 5:16); prioritize the most important things – family; worship; study; friendships; prayer; service to others. If your life is out of balance, take the time to reflect, review, restructure, revitalize and reboot. Don’t be a slave to your comfort zone. Push the envelope; dare to take on new challenges.
Jim Croce had earlier written a song that, when re-released after his death, became only one of three posthumous #1 songs in history:
If I could save time in a bottle, / the first thing that I’d like to do, / Is to save every day, ‘til eternity passes away, / just to spend them with you. / If I could make days last forever; / if words could make wishes come true, / I’d save every day like a treasure and then, again, I would spend them with you. / But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them …
The one thing we do not want to leave to our families in our will: regret.