I've heard people discuss how they can stretch limited resources far beyond their imagination when things get tough. For some people that means that £50 - something that would not normally last longer than a couple of hours on a night out - becomes enough to sustain them for weeks between pay checks, jobs or whatever financial challenge they may be facing.
Limited resources inspire creativity and before you know it, we’ve made something out of nothing. It's the same with time, we all know that in theory, our time on earth is limited. And when we experience personal loss or see tragedy in the news, we are sharply reminded of this reality. But for some reason, a few days, weeks, or months down the line we forget. We forget that we aren’t going to live forever. We forget that our time is borrowed, because we're caught up in and distracted by the busyness of life.
The scandal of a wasted life
A few nights ago, I came across something that sharply reminded me of this reality. A man had photographed his wife’s journey with breast cancer and continued to share their story after she died. As I watched him tell this powerful story, a strong sense of clarity dominated my mind. Areas where I was on autopilot or even worse, pursuing the wrong things, became blindly obvious. I said to myself, “you know that your time is limited here, but knowing is not enough - what are you doing about that?”
Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives [...] Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. - Ephesians 5:11-17
When we feel think that we have an abundance time, we get complacent. That complacency whispers, “if it's here today, it'll be here tomorrow”. It's subtle but it's there, and it creeps in slowly. This makes us more likely to waste what we have, whether it's money, time or trust. We stop being intentional and saying ‘today I’m choosing to spend my time doing that or being this kind of person’.
We waste time getting frustrated when the people in our lives don't meet our expectations (forgetting that no one is perfect). We waste time trying to change them or letting them go, instead of building bridges and working through the complexities of life with them.
"We forget that actually, we aren't going to live forever"
We waste hours being dissatisfied with our current position in life, eagerly anticipating a mysterious time in the future where we get to do more, be more and control more. We put off making difficult but worthwhile investments in ourselves and others, instead we trade it in for the easy stuff that brings instant, but short-lived gratification.
We all know that death and loss puts things into perspective but my question is, for how long? How long does it take for that consciousness to become clouded by a demanding life that screams ‘be here now’, ‘buy this now’ and ‘upload this now’'? It’s about what drive us, what influences our mindset and where we spend most of our days. It's about what is our spiritual and mental centre of gravity.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; [...] If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
- John 15 (NIV)
Jesus asks us to stay continually connected to him - without that “we can do nothing”. This doesn't mean that we become physically incapable, but it does mean that anything we do will have no lasting value. It means that we could end up spending our lives climbing up a certain ladder, only to realise that it was leaning against the wrong wall. Without being connected to Jesus it is impossible to live a fruitful life and keep our perspective. The repetition of 'remain' is meaningful too; because it shows that this is a daily choice. It’s not about what we do once every month or two months, but about what we do everyday.
Shift your mindset, and embrace life
In a life that is filled with challenges, tension and the never-ending hustle, we want to make sure we're spending time doing something meaningful. We don't want to waste it on the stuff that society forces us to care about, the things that are pitched at us as the hallmarks of a picture perfect life. And in order to see clearly, we have to challenge the way we think:
Do we see people as transactional? As things that are either help us or block us from reaching our goals? Or do we see them as humans with thoughts, passions and insecurities? Do we entertain the thought that it might be worth putting our guard down, and connecting with them at a deeper level?
Do we see life as a series of obstacles to overcome and hurdles to jump over; or as wide-open opportunities to have a richer, more nuanced experience? Do we embrace only the good times, and desperately shut our eyes as we wait for the bad times to pass; or do we recognise that simply because we're alive today, there must be beauty somewhere, even in the darkest of places?
It may sound cliche, but it's worth thinking about for a minute.
Seize life! Eat bread with gusto, Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure! Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love Each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange For the hard work of staying alive.
- Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 (MSG)
In short, life is to be lived and enjoyed. Take the risk and rebuild that relationship, take a breather from the never ending work and hustle, realign yourself with what really matters in life. Differentiating what really matters from what doesn't can be difficult, but we have an internal guide that can help us figure it out. The question is whether we will get quiet enough to do listen and brave enough to act on it.
Thank you for reading! Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts, questions or responses to the above.