41But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry. 42“I wish that even today you would find the way of peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from you. 43Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you. 44They will crush you to the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you have rejected the opportunity God offered you.”  Luke 19:41-44, NLT

What struck me at first when I read this Scripture during my daily devotions was the last verse about rejecting the opportunity God offered, or missing His visitation. That was the subject of yesterday’s blog (Rejecting God’s Opportunities, Missing His Visitation). But after finishing the blog I went back and re-read the passage. What struck me then were Jesus’ first words – “I wish that you would find the way of peace…Before long, your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you. They will crush you to the ground.” 

I know that Jesus is talking about Jerusalem and that my hermeneutics professor would blanche at the extension I’m about to make, but doesn’t this sound a lot like how you feel when you are over-extended, when you have allowed yourself to become too busy? Peace alludes you. As your commitments snowball, they slam against you and encircle you and close in on you. You feel as if you will be crushed by them. That has certainly described my life at times.

My friends, that is clearly not what God wants. I am convinced to the core of my being that one of the greatest maladies infecting Americans today is over-busyness — lives jam-packed with activities that leave little or no time for God. Often the little time we have for God is the “left over” time — time at the end of the day when we are too “used up” to hear Him or receive from Him the grace He longs to impart. 

There are periods when circumstances dictate a busier than desired life, but that should not be the norm. When over-busyness has become a lifestyle, making significant changes can be difficult — and sometimes requires radical surgery! I use the word surgery purposefully, because what must happen is that the scalpel must be taken to our schedule (and our spouse’s schedule and our children’s schedule). Over-busyness is a disease that affects the whole family. Parents who feel obligated to be involved in more activities than is humanly possible breed children who feel obligated to be overextended. But it is possible to restrict one’s activities. It’s not only possible, it’s desirable. 

A Simple Exercise
First, identify a time during the next couple of days when you can sit with God for about an hour. Yep! A whole hour to begin to allow Him to set your priorities and enable you to gain a measure of control in your life. To prepare for that time, create a calendar that lists every day of the week and identifies the hours from 6am until 10pm. Those are the hours you have available. Many of you may already be thinking this is impossible because right now you’re only sleeping from 1am until 6am. Not enough time, my friend. But that’s the subject for another blog some day. 

When you meet with God, first pray. Confess that you have allowed your life to become out of control. Confess your desire to live a life based on His leading. Thank Him in advance for the adventure He’s leading you in to.

Then begin the more practical elements of the exercise. If you feel anxious, be sure to stop and pray throughout the process. And remember, no decisions are unchangeable and we’re initially just looking at the coming week, not your whole life!

Block off on your calendar the daily requirements such as eating and working. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, blocking out your “work” time is a little more challenging, but block off time each day when you’re committed to having your children as your sole focus, whether for play, meals, home-schooling or whatever.

OK, the time that’s still available is for all other activities. And guess what! All the activities you’d LIKE to be involved in can’t fit in those available hours! That means you must choose between what is good and what is better. Be a Mary, not a Martha. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chose the “better part.” The first question to ask then is this: When during the week am I scheduling in my “God Time?” Asking this question first ensures that we don’t so overfill our calendars that the only God Time we have is taken out of the time we should be sleeping. This neither honors God nor our families nor ourselves. 

The next question to ask is: What is God’s top priority for me this week? Put that on your calendar. (Note that I said top priority, not top priorities!) It doesn’t have to be super-spiritual. For example, the top priority for me this week might be to visit my mom or to eat healthier. Both activities require blocking out 4 or 5 hours in my calendar this week.

Now make sure that your calendar has family time built into it. If it wasn’t your top priority (it isn’t always and that’s OK), add that time into your calendar now. Do you stay connected with your spouse by spending a half hour every day talking? If so, block that time out in your calendar. Do you spend the first half hour after school gets out listening to your kids talk about their day? Put it in your calendar.

By now your calendar might be getting full and you don’t have any of your activities in yet. That’s the point. Your activities ought to be scheduled for the time you have available for them. They should not be allowed to usurp (and I use that word purposefully) the time that should be given to God, your family, or your own sleep.

But Life Isn’t So Simple
Yes, I know. This exercise was very simple. But I think it’s an important one. It visually demonstrates the need to control our schedules according to God’s priorities, instead of allowing other people or the whims of our emotions to control our schedules. My emotions encourage me to sign up for way more activities than I can reasonably (or even unreasonably) accomplish. I repeat: That is not honoring to God, or to our families, or to ourselves.

Getting From Here to There
Now I recognize that most people will find their calendars over-scheduled and will be at a loss as to how to bring them into some semblance of peace. You can take two approaches: Radical surgery to remove what is undesireable, or gradual healing that comes through pursuing a balanced diet over a long period of time. Both may be required. Neither should be attempted without bathing the whole process in prayer. 

Radical surgery would immediately end all over-commitments, even to the point of renigging on some previously accepted commitments. This is a serious approach, but sometimes appropriate. 

A more measured approach is to weed out current activities by allowing them to come to a natural conclusion and then being firm about not replacing those activities with other busyness. For example, you might be leading a 12-week study in your small group. You might finish leading the study, then simply participate in the small group but not lead it. You may be coaching your son’s baseball team. At the end of the season when that commitment ends, don’t automatically replace it with coaching his soccer team. Pray over your calendar and ask God if that commitment is one that is “good” or one that is “better.”

There’s nothing cut and dry about managing our lives, and I don’t mean to imply that the task is simple. But we are called by God to be good stewards over all that He has given us, and our time is one of the most precious commodities we have. We can choose to spend it or we can choose to invest it. Managing our lives with this simple time management approach, when applied consistently, can bring great change. The consequences of allowing life to manage us can be too severe. I don’t want my life to lack peace or for all my commitments to close in on me and crush me to the ground. I’d much rather recognize the opportunities God has offered me and trust Him to “cover” all those things I don’t participate in. I’ve never believed the claim that you can “have it all.” I don’t even think that God wants us to have it all. He wants us to have what is better. Don’t let the good keep you from the better.

A Final Word
I can hear so many friends saying “but I can’t…” or “I have to…” Yes, you can, and no you don’t have to. It’s amazing how freeing it is to recognize that we are not required to do everything others think (or we think others think) we “ought” to do. Our commitment is to God first and it is clearly not His will that we be harried, hassled, and always in a hurry. With God ALL things are possible — even managing our own schedules.

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