When I became a new parent, I no longer thought I had enough time.
I’ve always been an anxious person, bent on productivity and intent on efficiency. Improving something was a thrill, and a completed to-do list a gold star. More done = better. And done perfectly was even better (as though this exists). A terrible motto, and yet, it still tempts me with regularity.
After my daughter, Eden, was born, I found the “hurry to accomplish/do/complete” voice blaring at a whole new decibel level. The curious thing is I didn’t feel so much in a hurry while caring for Eden. It was in those windows of time surrounding her care. Perhaps it was my nagging worry I’d need to nurse any minute, or my concern Eden would need something, or my adjustment to living each day with an unpredictable rhythm. When I went out to do some errands the hurry helmet came on, or after she’d fallen asleep for a nap, I’d start tearing around the house to get *stuff* done.
When a kind friend offered to babysit one afternoon so I could “have some time for myself,” I drove around town in a panic, making a flurry of stops and trying to check off necessary tasks. At one point, I relented and paused at Starbucks for coffee as a treat. I got in and out of line at least a handful of times because I thought I didn’t have time to wait.
There isn’t enough time ran on repeat. I vacillated between extremes – sometimes spinning so quickly in my to-do’s so I didn’t have to think about how overwhelmed I felt, and other times, flopping down in paralysis to look at Facebook since I couldn’t decide which task to tackle first.
So many days, I felt tight. Poised to spring into the next action. If I was at one store, my mind was already skittering to the next place I needed to go. If I was preparing the prayers of the people for Sunday’s worship, I couldn’t get the stockpile of work email out of my head. If I was preparing dinner, I rushed along so I could clean the living room. If I was on the phone with a friend, I made myself fold laundry or do something else simultaneously in order to multi-task and “make the most” (what does this even mean?) of the moment. As though conversation with one of the dearest people to me wasn’t worthy of my full attention in and of itself.
A wise person (aka – my psychiatrist in college) once told me, “Arianne, sitting on a porch at the close of the day and watching the horizon is a productive use of time.”
From where, then, did this scarcity of time mentality arise? Why did I feel so pinched and crunched? Why did I stubbornly believe there wasn’t enough time to do what I really needed to do? And why do I still find myself struggling with this on my spinniest days and in my weakest moments?
I look at Jesus, and as one of the busiest people on the planet, he seemed to believe there was enough time for what was most important. He stopped for “interruptions.” He took the day as it came, trusting that what he did was enough for that day. He valued and protected time for renewal, spending time alone with God and retreating when needed. Though people often demanded that Jesus justify why and how he used his time, he never seemed flustered by it. He was humble and secure in his choices. Who he was and what he did was enough. And he let time unfold as it did, not rushing it along. It was okay to have an “already-not-yet” kingdom instead of a fully completed one.
I believe and find reassurance in this on days when my trust in Christ’s love and faithfulness are steady. But what about all the times I get to the end of a long day and feel like there wasn’t enough time? It’s late, the time to sleep is already slipping away like sand through the hourglass, yet tasks remain.
“There’s not enough time, God,” I say, “to care for my community, my family, myself. To be an educated and justice-seeking person. To do the work I feel called to do. AND sleep.”
But God comes back to me with questions when I make such declarations. Questions about what God’s truly asked of me,
what makes a full, abundant, faithful life, and who or what am I trusting.
There’s something awry when I feel I don’t have time to answer the phone call from a friend or family member, or take a few minutes to pen something I noticed down in my journal, or rest in moments of cuddling with Eden after she awakes. There’s also something wrong if I feel I need to make an obstacle course of the grocery store with my madwoman dodging and darting, or continually drive over the speed limit, or sigh and snip when I’m forced to wait in line.
Every night as I rock and feed Eden before bed, I pray Psalm 23 over her. I used to just say it once, sometimes reciting the words rather automatically when my brain was still full and busy with the events of the day. But lately, I’ve been praying the Psalm over and over and over again as Eden drinks her bottle in the dim light of summer evenings. It’s the beginning of the Psalm that echoes most in my soul these days –
“The Lord is my Shepherd,
I have everything I need…” (Psalm 23:1 NLT)
I’ve taken these words to be not just a promise of enough time, but a call to contentment with my time. There is enough time is the new mantra I’ve started repeating. And it resonates not just for parents, but for other caregivers, or people who simply feel responsible for other people, which in reality, is all of us.
If I know I’m valued
not because of what I accomplish, but because I’m God’s child;
not because I did things perfectly, but because I did my best and tried to live in love;
not because I solved all the problems that make God cry, but because I cried along with God while I did my little piece to help
then there IS enough time.
There is deep strength and confidence in contentment, and in knowing I have all I need (including time) to live as God asks me to live. And on days when I wrestle so much with what God is calling me to do and I only hear the blare of the “hurry” voice, that is when I most need Psalm 23. I try returning to faith – to trust the time is enough and my call is toward a simple life of generosity, compassion, and delight.
P.S. – Tomorrow’s Weekly Prayer will center on this theme of a slower, trustful pace….