Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them..
- James 3:13-17
“Have you noticed how many day-planners are available these days? Leatherbound, pocket-size, purse-size, And then there are the time-management self-help books: how to get the most out of your year, how to increase your efficiency, how to make every moment count, how to invest your time wisely and productively.
“While all those voices and handy products scream for your attention, I’d like to play devil’s advocate and tell you how to waste your time. Five proven ideas come immediately to mind:
“First, worry at lot…
Second, make hard-and-fast predictions…
Third, fix your attention on getting rich…
Fourth, compare yourself to others…
Fifth, lengthen your list of enemies…”
- Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch
A word of warning: This Swindoll quote comes from his first week of devotions. This book may be quoted often this year, my morning devotional for the year. Even this quoted piece is dated (copyright 1994) as many people use the computer rather than a printed planner these days, with alarms that can be sent to your phone.
I have written recently about not knowing how much time each of us has – usually in my laments regarding my wife in TN and I, 800 miles away in PA. Then, I look at my past and realize how much time that I think that I have wasted. Usually, about this time, during my time-wasting efforts thinking about what time I have wasted or pondering how much time I have left – wasted time on the subject of wasted time breeds wasted time. No, about this time, Jesus, or is it the Holy Spirit, gives me a nudge and says that my time in the past was not wasted, for I use that experience in what and how I write.
For example, I have a spreadsheet that was designed to help prevent buying two copies of a book that I have already read. To illustrate how well that has worked, I just bought a spare copy of Terri Blackstock’s novel, If I’m Found, in case someone wants it. And I don’t have a copy of the third book in the series! Will I eventually buy two, one for each eye? I have placed it next to the spare copies of C. J. Box’s Wolf Pack and J. A. Jance’s Second Watch. Each reminding me that even with being highly organized in a time-wasting endeavor – at least to some, I still cannot keep from making mistakes. And that’s just 2019 mistakes, when I have not bought many books.
But, in the spreadsheet, that my wife affectionately calls “my craziness”, I have a multitude of sheets, organizing the information in different ways (alphabetically, chronologically as I finish each book, etc.), ways that seemed to be important at the time. As of the day of this writing, I have 2,126 books listed, but with two more that will probably be finished by the time this gets posted. The completion of these books spreads over 22 years and a couple of days. One third of my life of reading books. Of the 2,126 books, 108 are inspirational (not logging them into the spreadsheet until the past four years). So, was 2,018 novels read over 22 years a waste of time?
In pondering this, a gentle voice told me (multitasking – driving and praying) “Some people comment that you have a way with the turn of a phrase, some church friends. This might be a vain compliment, but if it’s true, where did you get the knack for doing so? You did not just read over 2,000 books to enjoy the books. You studied the authors’ techniques. You learned that some authors are great at informing their audience, but others put you in the situation. You love James Lee Burke, talking about his troubled Cajun lawman. Burke can describe things well enough for you to start tasting and smelling the bayou country of Louisiana. Of course, those senses are activated by the ‘time-wasting’ activity of visiting your wife’s family in the bayou country of Texas next door. That time was not wasted either. You also learned that some authors can inform and that’s all you get, while other authors can use roughly the same words and cause you to be moved, to cry, to cheer, to love. And as you learned by reading, you can truly say that you do not know the source of a well-turned phrase. The source of the wording you use in your posts comes from roughly 300 authors that you have enjoyed reading. So, don’t think your time was wasted.”
We have a sovereign God who can use things that we’ve learned in our time-wasting moments. So, was that a waste of time?
But, the list of time wasters that Charles Swindoll lists are truly time wasters. God can use those by admonishing us to not do that again. At least, we learned that we shouldn’t repeat that effort of the time-wasting endeavor.
When I started thinking about organizing this time-wasting post (while researching something on my tablet and waiting in the doctor’s waiting room – 3 things at once, WOW!), I thought of a quote from that devilish demon, Screwtape.
“He may say on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’”
- C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Now, going through life without knowing Jesus and then going to hell for an eternity… Isn’t that the only true waste of time?
As for us who know and love Jesus, we have a choice of bad or good, but also a choice of good, better, and best. Like anything else, we should choose wisely. And thinking of choosing wisely, the prayer time and Bible study time are not wasted time either. From whence does the wisdom pour forth?
Oh, for those who read the title and wondered, in all of my wasting of time, where did it come from… I shall not disappoint – or is this wasting time, now or when I heard it way back then? RIP Freddy Fender (1937-2006).
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.