Several years when I was in college, one of my professors shared some sagely wisdom with one my classes regarding life after college. At the time, none of us knew how wise, or true, his statement was. What he shared with us came in the context of a story about one his previous students. At some point in the past, a young man in the throws and business of the semester said to my professor, “I cannot wait until I graduate so that I will have so much more free time in which to enjoy life.”
Several years later after the young man had entered the “real world” the professors ran into him in the community. After catching up and reminiscing for a bit, the professor asked somewhat sarcastically, “How are you enjoying life now with all of your free time?” The young man with a smile on his face somewhat sheepishly retorted, “You knew when I said it in class that I would learn the hard way how wrong I was!” The professor shared this story with us and then said, “Even though you do not think so now, after you graduate college, you will not have more time. You will have less time. And, throughout your working adult life, it will progressively and increasingly be true that you have even less and less time.”
Much like it was to the other young man and to the countless other students who I am sure heard this same message over the semesters of this man’s career, I have never forgotten these words. They continue to grip and remind me because day after day and year after year they have been proven to be “prophetic” in my life. As you can tell, this is going to be a different post than you are you used to receiving from me and, quite frankly, that I am used to writing. It is not about preaching at all. I guess you can say it is not about ministry or pastoring. It does apply to anyone. But, it certainly is helpful for those in pastoring a church and should characterize all those who are called to ministry.
The truth is life does progressively get more not less busy. And successfully navigating the different responsibility of life takes intentionally. So, here it is. I would like to briefly share with you five lessons which relate to the business of life that I am currently learning. Some of these I feel like I am discovering or growing in the hard way. All of these have been prevalent this summer.
First, Life Progressively Gets Busier.
All I know to say here is my professor was absolutely correct in more ways than I know how to express with words. When you graduate college, there will be careers and relationships. And you may not know it but jobs and relationships are hard work, especially relationships. When you graduate seminary there will be ministry and marriage. And you may not be aware but ministry and marriage take time. And finally when you settle into your ministry, there are children. And in case you didn’t know, kiddos are hard work and take time!
You will not have more free time after you graduate college or seminary. With every stage of life, you will have less disposable time or opportunity for discretionary plans. This is a lesson in which I am still being schooled!
Second, You Will Have To Work On Your Daily Personal Time With The Lord For The Rest Of Your Life.
Because the first life lesson is true, this one is true also. If being tired and busy is causing a struggle for you to find time to regularly study God’s Word and pray now, you can be certain that these same factors will cause the same challenge later as well. Again, it may become progressively and increasingly difficult. Because remember, life is going to get increasingly and progressively busier. You must make and keep it as a priority.
So, learn to have a daily quiet time now. And, keep that pattern for the rest of your life. I love and agree with what our Provost, Dr. Norris Grubbs, tells our first semester students. “If you come to New Orleans and leave with a full head and an empty heart, you have completely missed what we have for you!” You will have to work on your daily personal time with the Lord for the rest of your life. But, take up this work because it is vital and you need it.
Third, Summer Does Not Automatically Mean Relaxation.
I remember in both college and seminary when the spring semester was drawing to a close and I knew summer was upon us, there was a pep in my step and freshness in my heart. Even when I had a summer job, I knew the pace was about to slow for three to four months. I would be able to “catch my breath” and spend more time with my wife. A time of refreshing was right around the corner. Relaxation was automatic. I didn’t have to plan it.
However, even though every stage of life has the summer season, life does not take or give a summer break. In some ways, the only thing that is different is the Mercury is higher outside. At times, including this year, summers are busier and more hectic in the stage in which I find myself. This does not mean that you cannot have times of recreation. Nor does it mean you can’t take family vacations. You can, should, and must! It just means relaxation is no longer automatic. You have to plan it, schedule it, and be intentional about it.
Fourth, Patience Is A Virtue But So Is Balance.
You have probably heard the statement that patience is a virtue. By this, we mean that patience is important and helpful for life. Having patience usually allows for the navigation of difficult circumstances more easily. There are many things in life that are near impossible without patience. It is a highly valued personal characteristic. This statement also means that not everyone has it. Therefore, patience is not easily acquired.
This statement is true. But, so is the one that affirms that balance is a virtue. By balance, I mean the ability to give the appropriate amounts of time, attention, and resources to our different areas of responsibilities simultaneously. Everything we affirmed above about patience I believe can also be said about balance.
Balance is important and helpful for life. Having balance usually allows for the navigation of difficult circumstances more easily. There are many things in life that are near impossible without balance. It is a highly valued personal characteristic. Again, this means that not everyone has it. Therefore, balance is not easily acquired. But, it is worth striving for, being intentional about, and putting into practice on a regular basis. Yes, patience is a virtue but so is balance.
Finally, Prioritizing Your Family Is Harder Said Than Done . . . And It Absolutely Is Worth Doing.
After everything I have written above, would it surprise you that the demands that your schedule will make on your time will present difficulties to focusing attention and effort on the paramount activities and people in your life? I suspect that it would not. Each new season of life presents new and often harder challenges for maintaining commitments to the nonnegotiables. Remember life gets more not less busy!
This is especially true as it relates to spending time with your family. I feel comfortable saying it this way — the demands on your time and your schedule will war against your commitment to prioritize your wife and children. And the intensity of the war seems to increase. Remember, these life lessons are ones that I am learning personally right now. This one I am being schooled in with not a small amount of difficulty and pain. But this is what I am one hundred percent convinced of — what any school at which I serve on faculty or any church that I shepherd as pastor needs of me more than anything other than my relationship with Christ is for me to be winning at home.
This is true whether they know it or not. This is true whether they agree or not (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:4; 1 Timothy 3:2 & 4). Yes, prioritizing your family is harder said than done, perhaps becoming more and more difficult every day. But, it is absolutely worth your time and effort.
From June 10 until July 14, a span of over a month, I had no more than five or six consecutive days that I was home. Keep in mind, I serve on faculty of an educational institution. This is the summer. This is the “off season” for me. And, it was in this time that I found my schedule to be near impossible. I imagine as busy and hectic as I have felt, many of you have faced the same or even more impossible schedules.
My point, however, is that it has been in this season that I have forced myself to slow down and ask what I need to learn . . . and change! I have found that sage advice from my professor to be true and prophetic all over again. He was and will continue to be correct. I need to learn to live within this reality. I must learn to prioritize the real priorities and balance my responsibilities. By and in God’s grace, I am learning to do so. Let me end with an imperative. Join me in doing the same in your life. Brother Pastor, do whatever you must to make, protect, and keep time for the people and activities that are paramount in a schedule that sometimes wars against you doing so.