To me, the best thing about my birthday each year is my family’s gifts of time.
The gifts themselves are lovely, of course, and as we celebrated my birthday this past weekend, I enjoyed opening every single one. My kids picked out a super cool Star Wars t-shirt for me, with a floral Storm Trooper helmet on the front. That appealed to both the sci-fi nerd and nature lover in me. My daughter also made me the beautiful bracelet pictured above, in all my favorite colors. My mother-in-law cooked me a lovely dinner with some of my favorites: strawberry spinach salad, chicken breasts in a rich tomato and cream sauce, and peanut butter chocolate torte. (It was so worth it to fall off the nutritional wagon!) My parents shipped me multiple boxes of goodies from my Amazon wish list, including On Garden Style by Bunny Williams, a gorgeous gardening book I have coveted for several years.
I enjoyed each of these gifts for so many reasons; a perennially tight budget at my house means we often have to wait for our “wants,” and to receive so many of them at once felt almost overwhelming. But beyond that, it’s the gift of time each present represented that made each one that much more enjoyable. My daughter spent a number of hours making my bracelet and picking out (with my sons’ approval) just the right t-shirt for me after I mentioned months ago how much I’d love one. My dad thought ahead and asked me to make sure my Amazon list was updated so that he’d be able to shop for me, and then surprised me by sending nearly every item on my list. My mother-in-law offered to cook a special dinner for me, which always involves extra shopping and hours of preparation.
Each of my loved ones spent not just money, but time, to make me happy. And as the one often doing the gift-buying and party-planning, I know how much time these tasks take. And I know how precious time is. I never seem to have enough of it!
As a home-schooling family, we’ve adopted a schedule that can be both strict and flexible, depending upon our other day-to-day activities. We always complete our school work for the day, though that may sometimes mean late nights or pushing activities of mine to the bottom of the list. I become frustrated when I think I have a free evening or Saturday, only to have something crop up in our schedule, and once again the tasks I want most to tackle get shoved to the bottom of the list. Again. The frustration makes my response less than sweet when my littlest wants to take five minutes to show me something he built in Minecraft, when I have a dozen other things I should be doing (or so it seems).
So, I often say, “Is it quick?” or “Can you show me later?” or “I really don’t have time.”
Though I say those things, I often end up giving myself an inward talking-to and take the time for my kids anyway. But I wish I could give of my time without being so miserly about it. I wish I didn’t have so much to do that I never seem to catch up. I wish days were longer than twenty-four hours. I wish I could survive on less sleep.
I don’t know how Christ managed it during his ministry years. Well, I do—he was the Son of God, after all, and his well of compassion was bottomless, surpassing fatigue and any other human needs he may have had. He healed, he fed, he taught. And yes, he did take time for himself to rest and pray. But he always had his priorities right. He didn’t turn away from blind Bartimaeus and the lepers who called after him. He knew that even more important than people’s physical needs were the needs of their heart.
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.—Matthew 9:35-36
So. That is the pattern we are all called to follow. Perhaps I will have to leave a load of dishes to wash in the morning once and a while, so I can enjoy my kids away from the school room in the evening. Perhaps I will need to lose a little sleep to meet their emotional needs. For sure, I need to pray that I can release my grasp on “my” time and give it to others more freely, even when it doesn’t work into my schedule or onto my to-do list. As Solomon pointed out in Proverbs, we will never know what tomorrow may bring, so why should we hold so tightly to our plans and schedules?
Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. —Proverbs 27:1
A final birthday gift was from my husband. He promised to take me to dinner…when we both have time.
How do you spend your time? Do you find it easy to sacrifice your time for others, or do you struggle as I do? I’d love to hear from you.