Monday, March 23, 2020

The Keeper of Time

"Be still before the Lord, all mankind,
because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling."
Zechariah 2:13

     My to-do list is novel length. And though editors have often insisted I cut thousands of words from my overlong manuscripts (on one historic occasion, 74,000 words, which is literally another story), I find it much easier to cut entire scenes, subplots, and even characters from my novels than to leave items on my to-do list undone.
     It’s not that I have the time to fully (or properly) tackle my list. I admit to being overly ambitious, usually at the most inappropriate times. For instance, when we are expecting company and I am trying to turn my home into something pristine and worthy of a cover story in Better Homes & Gardens, I invariably add projects to my already lengthy list. Like stripping wallpaper from a bathroom—and painting it, or hanging pictures in a room that has never once complained about having bare walls, or going through my closet and deciding what lucky charitable organization gets dibs on a mauve suit with monster shoulder pads. After forty years of marriage, my husband knows the signs and tries to catch me before I go too far. With varying success.
     “Are you crazy?” he asks.
     Pretty much.
     I confess. I have an addictive personality. Others may have their alcohol, drugs, or shopping issues, but I am addicted to lists.
     Yet, beyond the overachiever issues, my to-do list often gets in the way of something of ultimate importance: my quiet time with God.
     Come on. Fess up. I know I’m not alone in this. You too wake up early because the list mentally starts glowing before dawn. You too rise, determined to get tons done.
     And then, far too soon, your usual prayer time is suddenly upon you, and instead of willingly submitting, you search your stash of memorized Bible verses to come up with ones that glorify hard work and disdain sloth and laziness. God loves a cheerful worker, yes?
     Uh . . . kinda, sorta.

     And yet, even as you force yourself to sit, even as you take up your Bible or daily devotional, you’re thinking: But, but . . . I don’t have time for this.
     To which God most certainly responds, Excuse me?
     That’s when it’s time to cringe—and surrender. If God, the creator of all time, the keeper of all time, has time to “rouse himself from his holy dwelling” for you, then certainly you have time to rouse yourself from your unholy dwelling for Him. If you don’t, then perhaps you ought to put “Prioritize Life” at the top of your to-do list? Hmm?
     Here’s some insider information: I’ve found if I stay faithful during the busiest times of my life and give God some one-on-One time, He gives me time to tackle my to-dos—along with a serving of wisdom regarding how to delete (or delegate) a few tasks.
     So let’s say He’s got you in the chair. Your Bible is on your lap. But inside you grumble. Then you feel guilty for grumbling. You hope God won’t notice and you can somehow slip under the radar just this once and escape.
     Think again. He knows, and you know He knows. More than that, He cares. He wants your time together to be productive and precious. But face it, when you are frazzled and distracted you don’t have the right mind-set for quality time.
     So take a deep breath. Maybe two. Or twelve. Then close your eyes and tell God you are there (and that should count for something) and you want time with Him.
     Yes, your mind will digress and zip back to your list, but be as dogged toward diverting it right back to God as you are about adding to and checking off your list. Being still, silent, and available to the Keeper of Time takes practice—and prayer. Ask Him to teach you to be still and His. That is certainly a prayer He will honor—and answer.

     Then when you are settled down and centered in Him, instead of looking up your favorite “Be strong and do the work” verses, go for a few “Be still before the Lord” verses instead. The to-dos on your list will wait (truly, they will). And the exquisite time you share with Him is priceless.

     Above all remember this: Your relationship with the Lord is more important than your work for the Lord. Learn that and you just might be able to shorten your to-do list. Or even tear it up.
    Call it a sacrificial offering.

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