On Time

Fridays are stressful for me at work.  It's when I often have to get something out to a client by, and in general I'm trying to tie things up so that I have fewer things looming over me over the weekend.  To further turn up the heat, at just the moment I could use more discretionary time to handle these matters, I'm often confronted with meeting after meeting (some pre-planned, some spur of the moment), meaning more things to button up and less time to do so.

This past Friday was the day before a holiday weekend to boot, so while it might seem a natural time to ease into the good times, all it meant for me was more things due and more interest in zeroing out my to-do list.  So I headed into work with even more of a game face on, ready to tackle a day's worth of meetings and a daunting list of things to get a handle on in between those meetings.

Alas, almost immediately, before many of my co-workers had even arrived, I was faced with not one, not two, but three semi-emergencies from home - one health-related, one kid-related, and one house-related.  I spent the rest of the day distracted by calls and texts, or else the impending need to answer a cal or text, and to compound matters I had to leave the office early, leaving behind a couple of cancelled meetings and a whole slew of tasks.  My holiday weekend didn't really start until after midnight that day, since that's how long it took for me to tend to those tasks once the kids had gone to bed.

Midnight, of course, is way later than I'm used to going to sleep, and Asher didn't get the memo that I could've benefited from sleeping in.  Thankfully, I had our local Y to rely on, in that I could bring him into their Kid Watch and have some desperately needed me time, in the form of running and lifting - something I'd had to pass on every single day that past week on account of a certain child who had decided that my coveted morning exercise time was the best time for him to want to hang out with his daddy.

Alas, that went haywire too, as he cried inconsolably once I dropped him off, and when he hadn't stopped 20 minutes later the kind people at Kid Watch were obligated to come get me.  I stomped home with Asher, completely defeated by the constant intrusion of life into my already scarce alone time.

Others may more fluidly weave between work and family obligations, but not me.  And, others may be able to recharge without needing to be alone, but not me.  There's nothing inherently good or bad about me being this way, it's just the way I'm wired.  But it is something I will have to figure out, partly by just making time to recharge, and partly by realizing that my life is such that I am going to learn how to deal.

But there's a broader life lesson in here.  There's a famous story about how seminarians were asked to prepare a sermon on the famous "Good Samaritan" story in the Bible.  They were given different levels of urgent announcements at the end of their preparation when told to head over to the hall where they were to give their sermons, but each participant had to encounter a person in need not unlike the situation in the Bible story.  As it turns out, participants' willingness to stop to help the person in need - in other words, to actually live out the lesson in the Bible story - depended on how urgently they were told they needed to arrive at the hall.  Those who did not have to rush were more likely to help, while those who had to make haste wouldn't give the person in need a moment's consideration.

A wise friend of mine offered a plausible takeaway from the Bible story and from this little social experiment, which is that we should build in "Samaritan time" so that we didn't feel so rushed by our life obligations that we couldn't spare a moment for a person in need.  I think that's a great idea and it has obvious relevance for me; I'm pretty good at saying no, but sometimes not good enough, and so my weekly schedule has few release valves to give me a sense that I have time to spare if something comes up.

But I think another takeaway is that we can fill our lives so full, even and perhaps especially with good things, that we miss out on opportunities to be and do exactly as God's plan for us.  Not only have we filled our schedules but we have decided that what those schedules contain is so essential that they cannot take a backseat to something new that we did not expect.  And so we either repel that new thing or chafe at its power over us to keep us from what we can now not do because of its arrival.  And yet as important as it might be to give a sermon on the Good Samaritan, we should be open to the possibility that God wants us to be the Good Samaritan along the way.

A wise older Christian who once mentored me in the faith described this to me as "sacramental living."  I'm not sure I understand the terminology but what I was told it means is that our entire life is from God, and that therefore we should accept every new thing that enters into our life - expected and unexpected - as from Him and for good.  It is a hard but good thing for me to learn, so carefully planned and tightly calibrated is my current existence.  I may need more down time than others, and thicker lines between work and family, but God help me to be fully present wherever I am and to trust that if something comes up then whatever else has to wait - whether work, family, or me time - can wait.
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