I am fond of a quote attributed to William Penn that describes the time trap we fall prey to often: “Time is what we want most, but what, alas, we use worst, and for which God will certainly reckon with us when time is no more.” It reminds me of the Scripture that admonishes us to “redeem the time, for the days are evil.”
For us to redeem our time, we need to allocate it so that we don’t succumb to the urgent, but less important, demands of life. For example, we sometimes need to decline extraneous commitments in order to develop meaningful relationships instead. If there’s one creed for us to heed it is that people matter more than programs.
In the words of Nancy Reagan, we must learn to “just say no.” Someone’s need does not necessarily mean we are called to do it. We need to discern the difference between something that is good and something that is right. And saying no to a good idea or need doesn’t always mean never. It may mean not right now.
The ultimate example of pacing oneself through life was Jesus. He knew he only had a limited time here on earth during which to accomplish his mission, yet he daily resisted the temptation to yield to the tyranny of the urgent. If he could lay aside peripheral activities for the sake of his personal agenda, surely we can do so ourselves.
As for me, I want to make the days count rather than simply count the days. And I am learning to do that by negotiating the level of commitment I am prepared to make to outside ventures and then communicating my boundaries to others. For as Dr. Phil teaches, “you train people how to treat you.”