“If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” I’m not sure where I heard that phrase the first time but its truth remains with me. Am I the only one who is too busy? More often than not, I’m pulled in several different directions, and those pulls happen at the same time. Like you, I can only be one place at a time. Thus, prioritizing has become critical in my life. Knowing in what order to work one’s to-do list is a critical skill. It’s triage in time management. Below are two recent illustrations where I was confronted with the importance of focus. Expressed another way, there are seas of distractions. Since the easiest thing to do is fritter one’s time, learning to navigate well is focusing on the lighthouse. That focus lessens the likelihood of being tossed about.
The first illustration involves when our daughter returned home from college for a holiday weekend recently. My wife and I have been experiencing that ache that parents know. It comes after their children leave the nest. Suddenly you find yourself searching for familiar footfalls, the smells and sounds of one’s children, etc. that parents intuitively know. When our now-college-student-daughter came home, the passage of time became palpable. She told us of her classes, her teachers, her new sets of friends, etc. I found myself envious. Because I love learning, and because I enjoyed college perhaps too much in my generation, some of which involved learning, I told her, “I wish I could go back to college and do it all over again.” She just laughed at me. Why? It’s because there were so many opportunities I wasted. The things that seemed important at the time were often distractions from what would last.
The second illustration revolves around a conversation my son and I had as he and I were walking one of our dogs. Titan, our less-than-gargantuan Pomeranian/terrier mix of a dog (I couldn’t resist the irony when we named him) was pulling at his leash I was walking him on. He let me know he wanted to increase our pace. So, we gave in. Jeremiah took off running. Titan gave chase and took off after Jeremiah. Holding the leash, I found myself in the race. Jeremiah sprinted ahead of our little group, followed by Titan. I came in last, holding the leash, panting. When we reached the end of the road where we typically turn around, I was trying to regain my breath. Neither my son nor my dog was breathing as heavily. Without missing the opportunity to laugh at his old man, my son said, “Come on, Dad! It’s not like you’re old or something. You’re only 46.”
Just like when my daughter laughed at my comment about wanting to return to college and do things better the second go-round, my son’s comment reminded me of a basic truth: we don’t get do-overs. We better do what’s important the first time.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he wrote “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16 ESV). The idea Paul explores here involves redemption, redeeming one’s time, purchasing what is valuable indeed. In a world of distractions, wisdom lives near simplicity, and simplicity (at least for this old guy) hinges on focus. Focus or distraction, that is the question. May my children learn early to make the best use of their time. Before they know it, they’ll be panting, too, as my grandchildren outrun them.