My middle child started full time nursery this week, so I’ve had 2 and a half days of just me and the baby at home. If you’re at home and have children at school or nursery you’ll know how it feels to suddenly have a relatively quiet house, and not to know what to do with all the time you’ve got! (I know one child is exhausting, don’t get me wrong! But it is all relative.) Time is precious, and I feel anxious to make the most of it. I feel a failure if the children get home from school and I am frantically trying to get the dinner ready even though I could have done it earlier. I write lists and judge myself by how much I’ve ticked off. And then there are so many opportunities to fill my time – what should I choose? I’m afraid to make the wrong decision and mess everything up. Should I help supervise swimming at school? Or should I read the Bible one-to-one with somebody? Or should I stay at home and take up that long-forgotten pastime – ironing? If you’re like me, you’ll find these choices overwhelming.
I’m reading through the Bible in a year – only it’s taking me almost exactly two years. For three weeks I’ve been reading through Ezekiel. I must admit, I haven’t always found it the most inspiring fifteen minutes of my day. Phrases like ‘A sword, a sword, drawn for the slaughter’ (ch21v28) haven’t always seemed like ointment for my aching soul. It’s been quite difficult some days to think of how to respond to what God is saying. That’s obviously my fault, I’m not making a complaint here about God’s word! But God pronounces judgment through Ezekiel for many, many pages, and then the book changes. He starts to give Ezekiel very specific instructions about rebuilding the temple. At this point I was able to see that God was doing something really exciting – preparing this rebellious people to have God with them again. (But I still got a little bit fidgety during the passages about cubits and handbreadths – again my own fault.) But yesterday, I reached the end of Ezekiel, and what I saw there (Ez 48:35) almost made me want to start reading the whole book over again:
‘And the name to the city from that time on will be:
THE LORD IS THERE.’
Wow. How completely mind-blowing, that the LORD, the Holy One, would redeem his wicked people to the extent that he will even put his Name on them. He would mark them, ‘The Lord’s’, and not be ashamed of them. Such mercy.
And it struck me that I am in an even better position than those redeemed Israelites, because I am filled with his Holy Spirit. He doesn’t just put his Name on me, but the Lord lives in me and in my church family by his Spirit. Even though I am a sinner, who can’t even read the Bible for ten minutes without getting impatient, and who snaps at the children and rolls her eyes at her husband, The Lord has put his mark on me (Ephesians 1:13).
So I sat there thinking, “What shall I do about this?” And since I’ve been wondering what to do with the extra time I now have between 9am and 3.30pm, I wondered, “How do I use my time to glorify God’s Name in my life?” Even more pressure!
Then, in my “Bible in One Year” book, this was part of the New Testament passage for the day:
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11
Time is precious – that’s what verse 7 is alluding to, right? We haven’t got long! Argh! So what should I do?
- v7: Pray.
- Love people. Be generous with my home and food (v9) and gifts (v10).
- Say kind things, and serve in God’s strength (v11).
So my priorities should be to pray, be godly, and serve others. This is how I bring glory to God. It’s not the ‘to do’ list I write myself each day, but it’s God’s “list” for me (and it’s not actually a list!).
This will look different for different people, and it doesn’t mean that’s all you do. Maybe I need to get a job, or volunteer at my children’s school, or study for a Masters (ha ha!). But I must remember that God’s priority is not that I fill every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.* His priority is that I bring glory to him by the way I speak and act.
So if you’re asked, ‘What are you doing with yourself now that the kids are at school?’, don’t be ashamed to say, ‘Praying and reading the Bible, for starters.’
And now I might just go and write ‘The Lord is Here’ on my kitchen wall.
(*From Rudyard Kipling, If.)