Finding time by finding peace
When I gave up my career to be a full-time mother, I thought I would have lots of time for prayer, study, and relaxation. Not so! I'm sure we have all felt that we have so much that must get done that we don't have time for what we want to do. Jobs, family demands, housework, and the like seem to leave little time for leisure. It's tempting to think that if we could only find more time, we would feel more peaceful. Often, though, I have found the reverse to be true: when I am at peace, I have plenty of time.
How do we find this peace? By discovering that all that is really required of us is to love. Christ Jesus said that the great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself. Paul wrote that love fulfills the law (see Rom. 13:10), and he described what love consists of in First Corinthians, chapter 13. We can use this chapter as a kind of checklist to see if we are being loving. Reflecting divine Love, God, is something we can do right in the midst of our other activities, and such loving brings peace. How does this sense of peace give us more time, though?
By human standards we may believe that we are being productive only if we can see certain kinds of material results. Some might say, "Being a good person is fine, but there is work to be done." Jesus showed us, however, that if we put our spiritual growth first, everything else will be taken care of. He said: "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? ... But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:31, 33). As we seek the kingdom of God—striving to express heavenly qualities such as love—we find that a sense of burden melts away, and increasingly, whatever needs to get done can be done. Some activities might not take as long as we had thought they would. We may find that other activities aren't really necessary or can wait until later.
If we love even a little more than the day before, we should feel a sense of accomplishment.
When we feel that our time is limited, we think we have to choose between doing what we want and doing what is expected of us. There doesn't have to be this conflict. We may think we would rather watch a movie than do the job we are faced with, but isn't our real desire to be happy, fulfilled, at peace? Expressing more love can make us feel this way. Most important, it is natural for us to love because man is made in the image and likeness of Love, God. This is our true nature, the pure outcome of divine Love.
When we choose to put our spiritual growth first and make our focus love, we can approach every task joyfully and without pressure. Peacefully doing whatever we feel that God, divine Mind, is directing us to do, we will be more efficient and satisfied, having found our peace in serving God.
The Bible story of Mary and Martha offers a good lesson in overcoming the belief that we don't have time for what we want to do. The book of Luke describes Jesus' visit with the sisters. Martha was feeling burdened—perhaps partly from rushing about preparing the big dinner she felt obligated to serve their guest. Mary, however, just sat near Jesus and listened to his teaching. When Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her serve, he gently told her, "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42).
I have to remind myself every day that my most important duty is to love. Two small children can seem very demanding. Some days are so full of changing diapers and fixing meals that there hardly seems time for laundry and cleaning, let alone Bible study and relaxation. When I find myself getting short-tempered with my toddler because I'm not getting anything done, I know I need to examine my own thinking. This is when I turn to inspiration from the Bible for help and renew my efforts to be loving. Sometimes I think about a verse in Micah. It says of God, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (6:8). I am reminded that I need "to do justly"—to be fair to my little ones, try to understand their needs, and see each of them as truly God's loved child. I need "to love mercy"—be kind, compassionate, tender. I need to be humble and let God, not self-will, direct my life. These thoughts put my daily duties into perspective and help me be more flexible about what human activities I accomplish each day. It's a constant challenge, but well worth the effort because I am growing spiritually, which helps every aspect of my life.
Instead of measuring the success of your day by how many tasks you crossed off your list, ask yourself, How patient was I today? How compassionate? How humble? How well did I obey the Ten Commandments? If we love even a little more than the day before, we should feel a sense of accomplishment. In Science and Health Mary Baker Eddy gives a spiritual interpretation of the word day. It includes this sentence: "The objects of time and sense disappear in the illumination of spiritual understanding, and Mind measures time according to the good that is unfolded" (p. 584). As we measure our productiveness in the same way, we will feel uplifted and peaceful.