Recently I've been plagued by questions about how I am using my time. Knowing that my time on this earth is limited is a strong motivation to use the days I have left to the fullest. Some days, of course, I have little choice because I don't feel well enough to do much. There are natural, health-related limitations. But on the days that I feel relatively good, I do have options. I look back some days and wonder whether I have been as faithful as I could be in how I have used my time. Have I accomplished enough? Should I have written more email messages or made more phone calls? Should I have been willing to see more people or worked on more projects that are on my list of possibilities?
I wonder some days how God regards my time. I'm sure that just being busy isn't the right criterion. Yesterday I was taking a little rest and found myself wondering whether resting was the right thing to be doing when I actually felt good enough to do more.
As I have said before, discerning and pursuing God's "call" for any particular day seems to be an important goal. But discernment isn't easy. Sometimes giving myself to little things, or simply to periods of thoughtful reflection may be more important than my activist spirit will approve.
Internally I find that I am developing questions to help me in my discernment. They include, for example: 1) Is this activity something where my joy intersects with my perception of what brings joy to God? 2) Am I living into this activity with gratitude for the opportunity given to me? 3) Am I able to receive the time before me as a gift, or does it actually feel like a waste or a burden? 4) Does this activity play into old patterns of procrastination on the one hand or overwork on the other? 5) How does this activity express love--for God, for each other, and for God's work in the world?
Woven into this whole process of discernment for me must be a clear perception of grace, otherwise all of this fuss does little more than encourage me to worry. If there is no joy in my life, then I am not listening to God's voice but only to my own perfectionism. I truly believe that "joy is the business of heaven." C.S. Lewis made this important point in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964). Lewis pointed out that it is far too easy for us to assume that only the very serious things of life are approved by God. But in God's economy, where so much is upside down, even things that look frivolous, unimportant, wasteful, or playful can be important when they are attached to the joy found in the heart of God's character.
So the real question about my day is not "how productive was it?" but rather "how much joy did my activity bring, and how much love and gratitude did it express?"
Wishing each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!