When my dad was a little boy, he and his younger brother, Fred, were playing outside when all of a sudden Fred started screaming and running for home. High-tailing it as fast as he could, Dad raced to catch up with Fred in order to beat him home, all the while yelling, “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!”
In his mind, he wanted to make sure that it was clearly known that he had nothing to do with whatever the problem was. As it turned out, Fred had gotten himself into a very industrious nest of red ants, which proceeded to leave very large, painful welts on his legs that stung like the dickens for many days. Poor little guy!
Speaking of ants, sometimes I can get a little ”antsy.” (Just ask Brother Joel!) Between responsibilities at home and family, church and work, I have lots and lots to keep me busy. Sometimes I keep an ongoing checklist, which really makes me feel industrious and accomplished. However, if I am not careful, my focus can become diverted by all my busyness, and before I know it I find myself pulled in too many directions, wearing too many hats, doing a little here and a little there but unable to accomplish anything truly worthwhile. Other times, there are changes or unavoidable hiccups along the way that interrupt and force me to divert from the original plan.
These are the times when the ants come marching in one by one, and I can easily be overtaken by “antsiness” — a lack of contentment and a loss of joy in the simple things. My industriousness or my lack of flexibility can turn around to bite me. Thankfully the Lord is gentle and good to remind me about the importance of time, focus, and perspective.
One morning during our recent travels, Joel and I stopped for some breakfast. Standing in the checkout line, I struck up a conversation with the cashier who, by the way, was wide awake and cheerful at 5:30 a.m.
Me: “Good morning! How are you today?”
Cashier: “I’m great! I’m halfway through my shift.”
Me: “What time does your shift start?”
Cashier: “3:30 a.m.”
Me: “So you are a morning person?”
Cashier: “Yes, and I like my job. I’m done by 11 a.m. and get home in time to take a nap with my 18-month-old son. Then we have the whole rest of the day to spend together.”
Me: “What time do you go to bed?”
Cashier: “Oh, about 10 or 10:30 p.m.”
Me: “Caffeine dependent?”
Cashier: “Mostly sweet tea. I used to work 8 to 5, but this job allows me nearly the whole day to be with my son…”
Mental note to myself: God moment! Tuck this conversation away in my heart!
We structure our time around things that are meaningful — family, church, work, exercise, fun, relaxing activities, sleep (you fill in the rest!). Although all these things are good, if we do not prioritize time to be with the Lord, it just will not happen. Before we know it, He gets squeezed out by all the “stuff” that manages to fill up our time. We can even find ourselves running as if our very life depends on it … trying to beat the clock … trying to keep up… trying to justify our time. Inevitably, one by one, those pesky little ants come marching in until suddenly we are overtaken — and all the “stuff” begins to bite us, stealing our peace, joy and contentment.
King David made it sound so easy. Psalm 46 says that God is our refuge and strength. He is our help in times of trouble. He is in control. We just need to be still. BUT being still will not happen unless we allow it to happen.
A simple and casual encounter with a young mom poignantly reminded me how incredibly important it is to purposefully protect our time for the important things in life. It may not always be easy; it may require sacrifice; it may not be lucrative or comfortable. However, the end result brings great fulfillment and happiness.
A number of years ago, I changed my routine and began getting up very early each morning in order to spend time nurturing and protecting my relationship with the Lord. It is time that I have grown to love and yearn for, especially when those busy times creep back in.
On these cold winter mornings, would I love to stay nestled beneath my warm covers and enjoy a few more minutes of solitude and sleep? Yes, indeed! But the sacrifice of getting to bed a little earlier, disciplining myself to the alarm clock when it tells me to rise and shine has been worth it. In those wee morning hours, I am warmed by the embrace of His love and forgiveness. I’m awakened with wisdom and understanding while steeped in His word (cup of hot tea, journal and pen in hand). Some days I even find it difficult to return to the natural things of my life.
Most importantly, it continuously brings focus and perspective so that I don’t find myself running blindly from one thing to the next … And those busy little ants don’t get the best of me. (Well, most of the time anyways!)
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.