Sitting in class with Dr. Coe was always different. Different from other teachers, different from the same class last week, different from anything we’d done before. And yet there’s one day that stands out in my mind more than others, one assignment that has stuck with me all these years later, and I can’t even remember what it was. What I do remember is what he said after giving it to us.

“OK, so I’ve just told you to do something that will take you about an hour every day for the rest of the semester. What one thing are you going to stop doing in order to make time for this new requirement?” We all stared at him, blankly.

He continued, “You all have very full lives. You have families, ministries, jobs, classes to attend, homework to do. I bet not one of you has an hour everyday in which you sit around wondering how to fill it. Your life is already full. If you’re going to add one more thing in, what are you going to take out?”

This had never occurred to me.

It is obviously true that each one of us has limited time. We have twenty-four hours everyday; we have seven days each week, 52 weeks each year. No matter how hard we wish it, we cannot change the fact that we can only do so much in the time we’ve been given. And yet I’d managed to live my whole life as if the hours in my day were something I could bend to my will, limits that would stretch to fit in everything I’d decided I needed to do. They don’t, you know.

Ever since that day in class I’ve found myself wondering at the start of a new job, hobby, friendship, or ministry, what am I willing to give up for this? What one thing will leave my life so that this new thing can become a part of it? I have not been as good at actually giving something up.

The Lenten season often brings up the question of sacrifice for Christians who observe it; traditionally Christians have given up their best food and wine for the forty days, simplifying their meals to better focus their hearts. It’s an excellent idea, but in an age where food preparation takes just a fraction of our time everyday, and meals can be wolfed down in front of a television or in the car, I sometimes wonder if the spirit of Lenten simplicity can be easily forgotten. What would it be like to give up the things you quite honestly don’t have time for, to never bring in something new (even a new favorite TV show) without getting rid of something else? What would it be like to acknowledge your time for what it is, and free yourself from the things that no longer fit it?

What would your life be like if you had enough time? Heavenly.

Posted by Cate MacDonald

  • I am always amazed at people’s lack of understanding of basic economics. If economics can tell us no other things, it tells us that we do not have unlimited time. Time is a scarce resource. But when I talk to young people especially, they seem to not understand this.

    • I think you’re right, Adam. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in an age where communication grows continually faster and more expected. When I was thirteen we had one phone in the house in the kitchen. I now know of thirteen year olds with their own cell phones, email addresses and facebook accounts. Those changes alone make one so much more active in communicating with others that I think we can often be deluded into thinking we can continue to cram more and more in, that technology and people’s expectations will keep up. We’re wrong.

  • Abigail

    You know what really teaches this lessen well? IN TIME starring Justin Timberlake.

  • Keith Buhler

    168 hours a week, but we sleep, so you have about 112 waking hours a week.

    After 40 hours of work (or more), then you have 72 hours a week to play with.

    Sounds like a lot. Where does it go?

    I budget out my time and try to keep track.