By LESLIE LUDY
When Eric and I first began traveling, speaking, writing, and discipling, I quickly realized that I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of full-time ministry. As an introvert, I was often burned out from this demanding lifestyle. I knew that I should be turning to Christ to revive my spirit, but after a long week of ministry work, I found myself wanting to take a break from spiritual things. Eric and I adopted a tradition of watching a movie every Friday night. It started out as a harmless and fun activity for us to do together, but soon we became addicted to zoning out in front of our big flat screen. Movies and TV series became a way for us to escape from the intensity of ministry whenever we were feeling exhausted or discouraged. As our ministry roles became more challenging, we started watching movies or TV series several times a week. Whenever we felt especially exhausted, we indulged in all-out movie marathons. (I remember one weekend getaway to the mountains during which we must have watched at least fifteen movies!)
Spending so much time in front of movies and TV paved the way for other shallow, worldly pastimes to enter into my life. Trivial activities began to consume much of my free time. Instead of reading my Bible or inspiring Christian books, I often turned to novels and magazines. Instead of cultivating meaningful relationships with others, I wasted hours surfing the Internet for the latest fashion trends and beauty tips. Instead of taking time for personal worship or Scripture meditations, I downloaded the latest music from iTunes. Though I was in full-time ministry, I became more in tune with pop-culture than with the Word of God.
With my mouth, I proclaimed that the things of God were most important to me. But with my time and daily choices, I was placing much higher value on the things of the world.
God gently convicted me of this pattern, and I began to change my daily habits to align with eternal priorities. I began spending time in His presence once again, praying, reading Scripture, and listening to worship music.
As I drew near to God, He drew near to me. Trivial pastimes and pop-culture distractions were no longer attractive as I experienced the sweet presence of Jesus. I began to wonder how I ever could have sought satisfaction in anything outside of Him. Eric and I exchanged our movie nights for powerful times of prayer. Instead of mindlessly surfing the Internet during our spare time, we began studying Scripture and reading inspiring Christian biographies as we had done earlier in our marriage. We talked for hours about what God was doing in our hearts and what we were discovering in His Word. Jesus Christ became the highest priority of our days — not just in theory, but in reality.
Many of us look at our daily schedules and can’t see any available time for seeking God or sharing the Gospel with others. Yet often, our lives are filled with distractions and time-wasters that take up far more of our free time than we realize. Social media, Internet surfing, phone chats, movies, and TV are a few of the most common culprits. It’s not that these mediums are always wrong in themselves, but if not put in their proper place, they can dominate our time and pull us away from building our lives around God’s priorities. When we aren’t guarded in these areas, we often waste our time on temporal things, without even realizing we are doing so.
Financial consultants often recommend that their clients keep a record of exactly what they are spending their money on. Often, as clients evaluate their spending habits, they are surprised to learn that they’re spending far more in various categories than they would have guessed. The same principle applies to the way we spend our time. If asked to guess how much time you spend each day on social media, you might say, “Oh, probably a half-hour or so.” But if you were to set a timer each time you are on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, you might be surprised to learn that you are spending far more time in those arenas than you had assumed you were.
Or how about texting and phone calls? I’ve never been much of a texter. But about a year ago, a friend of mine started texting me daily with various updates, comments, and ideas. I felt obligated to text her back whenever I had a pause in my work or family activities. After a few weeks, I began to realize that texting with my friend was taking up at least an hour of my day, and I knew it was not the best way for me to be spending that time. A lot of our texts were nothing more than idle chitchat. It was amazing how much of my time was freed up once I eliminated the habit of unnecessary texting.
TV viewing is much the same; it can rob your precious time before you even know what’s happening. You might sit down with the intent of watching one episode of your favorite show, but once that remote is in your hand, it’s all too easy to click around from one show to the next for hours at a time. Eric and I have not had TV in our home for quite a few years. (We use our computer to watch family-friendly movies with our kids every now and then.) The peace that we’ve experienced by removing the distraction of TV has been palpable.
If you find yourself wondering where all your time has gone, consider keeping a diary of your daily activities, especially the things you spend your free time on. For a week or two, write down exactly how much time you spend on the phone, emailing, texting, on Facebook, on Pinterest, posting on Instagram, watching movies, channel surfing, reading magazines, and so on. Don’t just guess at how much time you are spending on these things. Set a timer or monitor the clock as you do them, and write down the exact number of minutes or hours being spent on each activity. Then, prayerfully evaluate whether you need to cut or reduce any of these potential time wasters from your daily life.
Ask God to show you how to spend more of your time on what is important. For instance, can you replace your nightly TV time with a regular prayer time instead? Can you dedicate some of your Facebook time to studying the Bible? Can you exchange your weekly movie night for encouraging a friend in need, or sharing Christ with one of your neighbors? Instead of letting leisure activities consume your weekend, could you spend some of that time serving the elderly, the poor, the imprisoned, or the refugees in your local community?
The Bible says that a woman who builds her life around the pursuit of selfish pleasure is “dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:6). What an incredibly poignant challenge to our souls. May we not waste the precious time that God has given us here on this earth!
I can’t help wondering how we as Christian women could impact this world for eternity if we were willing to come away from time-wasters, and pursue Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.