My watch broke this week, and it has been driving me crazy. It feels like such a waste of time to fumble through my pockets or purse for my phone every time I want to see a clock. Ironically, I haven’t had the time to get the watch fixed.
Moms value their time like it’s precious gold. And it is. Every moment seems to be consumed by meeting someone else’s needs–changing diapers, cooking meals, attending events. Occasionally we get “me time.” I cope with the constant demand by mentally scheduling out each day, prioritizing what needs to get done. I work hard and sleep harder. I often find myself more likely to be in a foul mood when I think I’ve been “unproductive.” If you’re nodding your head, I’m not alone in thinking this way.
This obsession with the “tick, tick” of the clock is largely cultural. About a century ago, Max Weber wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. I read it in a political science course as a freshman in college and it still sticks with me. Weber argues that Americans have an “economic frame of mind” that is rooted deeply in our nation’s hard-working religious heritage. Benjamin Franklin captured the sentiment in the classic adage: “time is money.” Think about the way we talk about time as if it were money: we spend it, waste it, save it, and sometimes lose track of it. This mentality has contributed to some spectacular advances in production like assembly lines, light bulbs and computers. It has also made us very, very busy.
We are constantly aware of how we spend our finite days, hours, minutes, and seconds. Even if you’re incurably lazy, you probably feel at least a little guilty about it.
As Weber’s title would indicate, this mentality isn’t all bad–there is, in fact, some Biblical truth to it. Ponder these:
Proverbs 6:6-11: “Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”
The “wife of noble character” of Proverbs 31:18, 27: “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night…She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12: “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.”
Ephesians 5:15-15: “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Also look at Matthew 25:1-30, the parables of the 4en virgins and the talents. Jesus implies that you should make the most of the time and resources you have during your short life on earth before he returns.
I gather from these Scriptures that God values hard work and sensible planning. But I don’t think he had 80-hour work weeks and exhausted, cranky mommies in mind as the intended outcome of mankind’s labors. As usual, we take what is good and we warp it ever so slightly into something destructive.
Another adage comes to mind as I’m thinking about how to make the most of the time I have without destroying myself: “Stop and smell the roses.” There’s certainly value to that. Time seems to slow down when we pause to drink in the everyday beauty that we often miss. That’s why a lot of people find therapy in the things that bring calmness: beautiful scenery, children’s laughter, yoga, a warm cup of coffee, a delectable piece of Belgian chocolate (or maybe those are just the things I like).
Still, those spaces in between the proverbial roses wear on me. When I have two kids screaming at the same time while I’m trying to get them out the door because we’re late, this never comes to mind: “Wow, God, what beautiful children I have. Let me drink in this moment!”
I’ve known I’ve approached the issue of time all wrong. But I’ve had a hard time placing my finger on what was wrong, since I do put a lot of Godly principles into practice with my time scheduling. It dawned on my while I was writing this that the “spirit of capitalism” did me a huge disservice: it implanted deep within my soul a false entitlement to my time. If time is money, did I do anything to earn it? No! In fact, Jesus paid for my life under grace with his blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”). Is not every millisecond that I breathe a gift from God?
This is humbling, thinking this way, that it is not my time, that this mist of a life is a gift. The Spirit of God is shoving the spirit of capitalism out of my mind and heart. It doesn’t necessarily change a whole lot about the way I spend my time, but it does change my attitude about it (study the Greek word “metanoia,” which when translated to English means “repentance”–and you’ll know better what I mean). I’ve been trying to find the small roses amidst the “busyness” of my life, when in fact I was missing the giant rose, which is the gift of life itself and every moment in it.
In conclusion, my epiphany seems pretty basic–be grateful I’m alive. Not exactly an original or brilliant thought. But, as Ann Voskamp says in the book I’m reading, One Thousand Gifts, we have “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” We constanstly need to be reminded about the basics. Voskamp also says, “Contemplative simplicity isn’t a matter of circumstances; it’s a matter of focus.” If I strive to focus on the big picture/rose, I might not get so distressed about my bare, watchless wrist.
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