Weekly Devotions for 1/9

Teach us to use wisely
    all the time we have. – Psalm 90:12 (CEV)

Have you had the ritual of switching planner calendars for the new year yet? I keep both an electronic calendar and a paper one. The electronic one is connected with the rest of the family, and so it is for things that everyone needs to be aware of for scheduling. For things only I need to know – like who I am visiting during regular work hours or other specific details of my work day – I prefer a paper planner. I find it easier to make notes or changes as unexpected twists change around the plans I had made. Using a paper planner means that as we begin a new year, I begin a new planner. That means there must be a time of switching over from one to the next.

There are several emotional stages to the ritual of switching from one calendar to another. First is the stage of infinite possibility. A brand new calendar is full of white space. The schedule is open and full of possibilities and hopes. Then comes the stage of filling in events that are already planned for this year. This stage is a mix of excitement and disappointment. The excitement comes from the highlights of what to expect in the coming year. The disappointment comes when it becomes clear that some weeks already have too much happening, and so the infinite possibility of the white pages already begins to feel crowded out. After that comes the filling in of the regular events – worship every Sunday, council meetings the 3rd Monday, and so forth. At this stage the sense of possibility truly contracts, and the sense of how little freedom there is in the schedule comes in. Finally, there’s a chance to fill in the optional times. This is where the real work comes in. What choices do I make?

It’s often said that our calendars do not lie. We can insist something is important to us, but our calendars reveal our true values. We may say the fitness matters to us, but how many workouts do our calendars show us to have done each week? We may say that God is important, but how much of our precious calendar time is devoted to our spiritual life? I find this saying a helpful reminder, but not entirely accurate. Our calendars are not as completely free and full of possibility as we like to think (see the stages of the calendar switching ritual), but they are more free than we sometimes think. It seems to me that most people I speak with feel bound by the calendars they have set. They are controlled by their calendars rather than the other way around. There must be a balance between the demands that our schedules make on us and the time we choose what our calendar looks like. We don’t get an entirely free calendar full of white space waiting to be filled with whatever we want, and yet we do ultimately have say over how we fill our time.

As we start a new year, consider to what extent your calendar is controlling you. Do its demands match your values? If not, how much freedom do you have to shift your calendar? How does the way you use your time honor God and allow you to grow in faith and discipleship? How might the freedom you have in Christ open your days to better reflect God’s goodness?