Time Wasters – Part Four

Time Wasters – Part Four


by Leslie Ludy | May 1, 2011

“Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business...as we commanded you.”

– 1 Thessalonians 4:11

When I was nine, I dreamed of becoming a detective just like Nancy Drew. My friend Sarah and I became the self-appointed mystery-solvers of our suburban neighborhood. We had all the gear: walkie-talkies (these only worked if we were within five feet of each other, but at least they looked cool), dark sunglasses (so no one would recognize us), and a clue book in which we carefully recorded all the suspicious activity we observed (i.e. “Mr. Jones from next door got his mail today – and he acted kind of sneaky about it”). We were ready to take a serious bite out of crime. We imagined being the first child-detectives to win medals for our shrewdness in out-smarting of all the local “bad guys.”

The problem was, there were no bad guys around. At least, none that we could find. No matter how many stakeouts we set up, nothing sinister ever happened on our boring, predictable street. We realized that if we wanted any mystery-solving excitement, we’d have to create it for ourselves. So we launched an adventure called “The Mystery of the X.” The name was inspired when we noticed a bright orange “X” spray-painted on the sidewalk. Sarah’s dad told us that the X was there to mark the spot where electrical wires were buried under the street. But we knew there had to be more to the story. “I bet it’s a clue that leads to the bad guys’ secret hide-out!” I told Sarah. From that day on, we were embroiled in an exciting mission to find the criminals’ hub.

“I found a grocery store receipt laying on the ground!” Sarah would tell me. “It’s a clue!”

“Yes, and I just found another orange X down the street,” I would chime in. “That’s another clue!”

Our imaginations ran wild. Every person we encountered became a character in our unfolding drama. Every car that drove onto our street became part of the story. “I bet that lady in the red van is a bank robber. She looks like she’s up to something.” “Yes, you’re right! And I think that guy with the blue jacket is her secret partner in crime. I bet he has all the stolen money hidden somewhere in his house.”

The Mystery of the X kept us occupied for several months. It was full of excitement, adventure, and peril. I cannot remember exactly how it ended – whether we actually solved the mystery or simply decided that we’d never catch the bad guys after all. But what I vividly recall is how skilled Sarah and I were at creating drama - inventing stories, making up clues, and building an alternate reality that was so much better than real life.

My ability to create drama was harmless and innocent enough at the age of nine, but as I got older, my drama-making skill morphed into something very different.

“I saw Tracy flirting with Matt today,” I squawked into the phone one Friday when I was fourteen. “She’s probably cheating on Nathan. We should talk to Kelly about it and see if she knows anything.” Thus the theatrical Tracy/Matt/Nathan love triangle unfolded out of thin air. And it took up all my time, thoughts, and energy for about a month.

When that drama subsided, I was quick to find another one. “I’m so worried about Amber. She’s really depressed since Lisa stopped being her friend. I’m the only person she will talk to about it. Last night she was crying on the phone with me for two hours. I’m going to write Lisa a letter about it.”

Who needed the Mystery of the X when so much real-life drama swirled around me? It was like living in a soap opera; there were always couples breaking up, friends getting mad at each other, and interesting love-triangles forming. All I had to do was plant myself right in the middle of them, and sometimes stir things up through strategic gossip and voila! – another great drama would emerge in which I could invest my thoughts and emotions.

When God got a hold of my life at the age of sixteen, drama was one of the first areas He began to put His finger on. The more I studied His Word and His nature, the more I realized that my thoughts and emotions were to be centered on Him, and not on the latest gossip or romantic saga from my circle of high school friends. But this was easier said than done.

I had become addicted to drama; to riding the emotional roller coaster of one saga after the next. I always felt I needed to be in the know; always at the center of the latest issue among my group of friends. I wanted to be the one that girls cried to on the phone, the one that everyone shared their secrets with, and the one who noticed romantic flings forming before anyone else did. I wanted to be at the center of all the action. And if no excitement existed, I knew how to create it, just like when I was nine years old.

But God was saying, “Find your adventure and excitement in Me. Learn to live a quiet life – one that is built around Me – and mind your own business. I alone can fulfill You. Getting caught up in human drama is merely a waste of your precious time.”

So I allowed Him to retrain me. I pulled away from the drama; I shut my ears to the gossip, the latest “he said, she said” news. I began to spend my time and energy building intimacy with Christ, rather than chattering about meaningless sagas with my friends. In fact, I walked away from the shallow friendships that were based on nothing but ridiculous drama, and I learned how to build real friendships that were centered upon Jesus Christ alone.

What I discovered was that a Christ-centered life was far more exciting than any contrived human drama. Every day with Him became a great adventure, solving the beautiful mystery of His nature, His pattern, His ways. Unlike a temporary romance saga or neighborhood mystery, discovering His Truth knows no end, and it only gets more exciting and intriguing as time goes on.

Drama is a great weakness of the female race. We get caught up in the intrigue of human dynamics; we are drawn to gossip and idle chatter like a moth to a flame. Pop culture preys upon our susceptibility to drama, enticing us to waste countless hours on shallow romance novels, ridiculous vampire sagas, and meaningless Hollywood scandals. Few modern young women are truly skilled in obeying God’s command to lead a quiet life and mind our own business.

All too often, if we can’t find a good drama to get caught up in, we’ll create one:“Did you see the way he looked at her? I bet there’s something going on between them! I should talk with so-and-so about it!” or “I can’t believe she just said that. That was so rude. I’m going to stop speaking to her so she’ll know I’m mad.”

In 2 Corinthians 12:20, Paul writes about his concern over one of the churches: “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be...I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”

Just think about how perfectly this describes the state of affairs in a typical sorority house, girls’ dorm, or clique of high school girlfriends. Young women are masterful at the art of drama: gossip, back-stabbing, arrogance, conflict, and betrayal, interfering in other people’s lives and becoming consumed with emotion-filled sagas.

Drama is destructive. Not only does it eat away our precious time and energy, but it also erodes our intimacy with Christ. We cannot seek our King with an undivided heart while engaging in idle chatter and getting caught up in the “he said, she said” hearsay that swirls around us. We cannot glorify Jesus Christ when we spend our words, thoughts, and emotions on human drama.

Remember the movie Anne of Green Gables? Rachel Lynde – the nosey neighbor of Matthew and Marilla – paints a vivid picture of what happens when our drama obsession isn’t curbed at a young age. We grow into prying old gossips, constantly “meddling in other people’s affairs” (as Anne would say). There is nothing noble or beautiful about this kind of womanhood. It’s pesky, annoying, intrusive, destructive, and selfish.

Scripture warns against this kind of femininity in 1 Timothy 5:13: “At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.”

If you are ready to exchange a pattern of idle chatter, meddling, gossip, and shallow human drama for the true adventure of a Christ-built existence, here are some practical ways to begin:

1. Pursue a quiet and peaceful life

First Timothy 2:2 exhorts us to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” The phrase “quiet and peaceable” denotes a tranquil heart and mind at rest from unnecessary fretting, worrying, and barging into other people’s business. We are told in Hebrews 12:14 that we should“make every effort to live at peace with all men,” and again in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

I have two young daughters, both of whom are expert drama queens. One thing I’ve learned raising little girls is that you don’t have to teach females how to be melodramatic. We are born that way. Knowing how to showcase womanly drama is second nature (or should I say sin nature) to most of us; though it can take different shapes and forms depending on personality. When Harper doesn’t get her way, she sulks and sniffs as pitiful crocodile tears run down her chubby cheeks. Moodiness is her choice weapon for creating drama wherever she goes. Avy is another story. When something happens that Avy doesn’t like, she bellows and hollers and screams at the top of her lungs. Taking center stage is her method of choice for creating drama wherever she goes.

Both Harper and Avy understand the word “drama.” Whenever we see them use their feminine play-acting skills in a manipulative way, like pouting or screaming, we say, “No drama!” Those two little words are a warning that they’d better change their attitude or reap some serious consequences.

The secret to living a quiet and peaceful life is in not allowing our emotions to lead us and not overreacting when someone does something we don’t like. Rather, we are to deliberately choose to control our reactions and submit our emotions to the Spirit of God instead of our melodramatic feminine whims and feelings. Whenever the temptation to react emotionally arises, simply tell yourself, “No drama!” and choose the path of peace. Instead of pouting, sulking, lashing out, or ignoring someone who is irritating you, try praying for that person instead. Even better, say or do something kind to them. Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” One of the best ways to lead a tranquil life (rather than an emotional roller coaster ride of constant drama) is to follow this simple yet brilliant advice. It may take a bit of practice and a lot of supernatural grace, but it leads to a beautiful, peace-filled existence that brings glory to our King.

2. Mind your own business

1 Thessalonians 4:11 tells us to “mind our own business.” Women, for some odd reason, are acutely interested in the small details of other people’s lives. We can spend hours hearing all the particulars of so-and-so’s wedding or the birth of so-and-so’s baby. We can cry tears of joy when we hear about how a guy proposed to his future wife - even if we don’t know the couple very well. We want to know all about the colors, clothing, height, weight, and we want to experience every emotion felt and expressed throughout the entire experience. Men are fine to just hear the basics. “So-and-so got married yesterday” is about all they really care to be told. A woman’s love for small details can be a beautiful thing; when submitted to the Spirit of God, it can add romance, sparkle, and beauty to everyday life. It enables us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” in a truly special and meaningful way. It helps us be a sensitive and empathetic listener when someone is struggling with something.

But our love for knowing details can also lead to trouble. It’s fine to be excited about somebody getting married or having a baby. And there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the wonderful things that happen in other people’s lives or being a listening ear when someone is hurting. Yet when we seek to know everything about everyone, to find out every detail about the ups and downs of people’s lives and hear all the nitty gritty of every little saga they go through, we quickly become the “busybody in other men’s matters” as warned against in 1 Peter 4:15.

Using Twitter and/or excessive texting is the opposite of minding your own business. These mediums of communication put all the details of your life on display for others to know, and sticks all the minutia of everyone else’s life right in your face, all day long. Facebook, email, and cell phone time can also be culprits. If you allow these activities to take much of your time and energy, you will quickly find that most of your daily life consists of idle gossip, meaningless chatter, and meddling in other people’s affairs. (Just remember Rachel Lynde if you want to know the end of this story.) To mind your own business means to focus on your own relationship with Jesus Christ and on what He has called you to, instead of planting yourself in the middle of other people’s drama.

Being a busybody can become an addiction that sneaks into our lives under the banner of “helping people” or “being a listening ear.” But soon we find that the thrill of “hearing all the details” is something we can’t live without, and our focus shifts away from Jesus to the latest saga between this person and that person. Like any sinful habit pattern, this must be broken by the supernatural enabling grace of God. Ask Him to show you the practical steps in your life that you need to take in order to mind your own business. And remember – when it doubt, walk away. It’s always better to spend time in the presence of your King that chatting away the hours on your computer or cell phone.

3. Work with your own hands

The same verse that exhorts us to mind our own business also tells us to work with our own hands. Women in particular are susceptible to wasting time on idleness. If we are not pouring ourselves into valuable work for the kingdom of God or cultivating our relationship with Jesus Christ, chances are we are wasting time on meaningless, shallow drama. God asks us to spend our time working on things of eternal value – not on silly romance novels, pointless chick flicks, or ridiculous reality TV.

Titus 2:4 exhorts older women to train younger women how to “love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” This is the opposite of the Desperate Housewives lifestyle – women completely consumed with selfish human sagas and obsessing about who did this and who said that. Movies or TV may make such femininity look enticing, but God says it’s a path that leads to death and emptiness.

Even when we are single, we are to be busy about God’s work, not eating the bread of idleness, as it says in Proverbs 31. There is a dying world all around us. Every day, thousands are perishing without Jesus Christ. There are countless orphans, foster care children, elderly, prisoners, and refugees. Are we being Christ’s hands and feet to them, or are we too busy watching the latest episode of The Bachelor or reading the latest gossip on Facebook?

Working with our own hands – pouring ourselves out for others – is a great cure for drama. When we invest our time and energy into the things that really matter, we soon find that we have all the excitement, fulfillment, and exploration we could ever want or need.

You don’t have to invent The Mystery of the X (or know all the latest gossip) in order to have an exciting life. The mystery of godliness is a never-ending frontier of discovery and intrigue. I invite you to leave temporal human sagas behind and join me in the real adventure of building Christ’s kingdom – because His drama leads to abundant life.*

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