Guest Blog Post
[This guest post is from a regular participant in the Chalcedon Teacher Training Institute's weekly studies of Biblical law.]
I want you to take a moment to think about your average day. Split it up by category: X amount of hours for work, X hours spent sleeping, X hours spent on chores and household necessities and the like—however you mentally view your day. Add into the mix items that don’t necessarily take hours even, but regular activities you give time to. Yes, you should be including your Bible study/devotion time, as well as time spent on your morning and evening toilette, eating, ferrying children to and fro and the like. Get a good mental picture of your time. We’ll consider this your baseline assessment, shall we? Your subjective, initial perception of your life’s endeavors.
Now let’s complete a fun grown-up craft project/science experiment/invitation for epiphany. (Yes, I’m a homeschooling housemum. Hands-on projects are the best learning tools.)
Grab a pad of paper, a bag of beans—or, if you’re like most households nowadays and have never bought dried beans, substitute a bag of small candies (and resist the temptation to sample your project as you work)—and clear off the kitchen table. Trust me, you’ll need the space. Take whatever mental categories you made and put them each on a sheet of paper. Then start counting beans, each of those little buggers representing 5 minutes. For those getting the recommended 8 hrs of sleep a night, that’s 96 beans on that sheet. If you put it an 8 hr workday, the same. Yes, that’s a lot of counting. I’d apologize, but the point of this exercise is worth it.
By the time it’s all said and done, you’ll probably be feeling a little sheepish. You’re noticing your Bible study/devotion paper is looking pretty sparsely filled compared to your television time—or even your “personal hygiene and presentation” paper, especially for us ladies. Did you find you needed a second piece of paper for certain categories? How does this visual assessment compare to what you’d mentally laid out? Were you close? Do you find the objective results a little embarrassing? A little humbling?
“Yeah, I get your point.”
Ah, but we’re not done yet. Because how many beans are on all of your sheets? If your answer is less than 288, you’re operating on less than a 24 hr day. Grab another sheet of paper, and load it down with however many beans your original assessment was missing. Now, I’m not going to be cruel and make you label that sheet “Idle”, because odds are a lot of those beans are incidental tasks and moments that don’t get to be counted on any other sheet. But take a step back now. Look at the whole picture of your day. Look at where your time was spent. Look at the proportions between the sheets. Look at how much time you overlooked, or how much time that could have been used for something more/better.
Sorry. Just one more step, and it’s the doozy.
Now ignore your beans. Look at your papers. What categories did you make? Is it “Sleep”, or is it “Rest from your Labors”? Do you “Work”, or do you “Endeavor in your God-Ordained Vocation”? Do you spend “Time with Kids” generically, or do you have a paper to register all the time you spend “Raising in the Nurture and Admonition of the Lord”? Ladies, do you complete “Housework and Laundry”, or are you “Faithfully Maintaining the Household’s Apportioned Provision of the Lord”? Do you have X obligatory minutes on a sheet for token “Bible Study/Devotion”, or are you consciously pushing to devote more time to “Meditate on the Law Day and Night”? Our words and thoughts shape our hearts just as much as our hearts influence our words and our thoughts.
The purpose of this exercise is not to leave you feeling like a flaming bag of donkey dung, or to underpin a Debbie Downer view on your life and actions. Those who are “more than conquerors” should not consider a life of lowly-wormdom part of their Christian calling and purpose. Take that self-flagellation and feeling of inadequacy, flip it on its head and give it legs. Put it to use. We are called to sanctification. We are called to redeem our hours.
Yes, good Christian, I’m telling you to redeem your beans.
It’s a lifelong endeavor, but like the time it took for you to count your beans, the result is well-worth the effort. Work at shifting your beans to more sanctified ends. Work at shifting your perception of your time (your paper titles) to a more sanctified perspective, because when the perspective of those beans is sanctified, the beans become sanctified. Take a picture of your table now, and then set your endeavors to making that table better a year from now. Set yourself the task of making that table better a decade from now.
Now, there are those who will see this exercise and, as with all earnest admonishments towards godliness, use it to spur their own works righteousness endeavors. And then there are those, conversely, who will wag their fingers at me for daring to suggest something which could be misconstrued and misused as a support of works righteousness. Yes, the bathwater becomes dirty the moment you stick the dirty baby in it. Does that mean the baby no longer needs a bath? Do you toss them both, forgo all future bathing since that blasted dirt soils everything? Or do you do your best to get the baby clean, despite the pervasive depravity…I mean, dirt. Yes, I’m smirking. Tendencies towards works righteousness have existed since the Fall. Tip of the hat to acknowledge that fact. Now pick up the soapy sponge and get scrubbing.
Set yourself to the task of redeeming your beans.