Teach me to number my days aright that I may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90: 12. This is the prayer I’ve prayed for over eight years in the ongoing battle with my calendar.
What I have so desperately sought is a sense of peace and guidance that my days are not my own, that I am faithfully following God and not my own whims. And that I might let go of the frenzy of a tight schedule and experience God’s freedom and joy in the moments of everyday life.
This battle has been fierce and long.
By battle I mean fighting the filling up of every single moment in every single day. Like many others I’ve read of and talked to, I have fallen into the trap of thinking that a full calendar adds up to an abundant life. It is a lie.
My full calendar equals this: un-doable daily lists rule the day. The have-to’s have a stranglehold on the want-to’s. There is no wiggle room to savor a special moment and it feels as if the life is wrung out of every day.
Previously, when I’ve hit the I’m-too-busy meltdown mode, I would trash the whole thing only to start all over again. I’ve been round and round in this battle for years.
I can’t be the only person in the world who does this.
Over the summer I began to dread the next season, anything starting back again in the fall. It scared me. I don’t dread; I look forward to things. So, I’ve gotten serious and I’ve gotten some help. A trusted friend came to my aid and asked some revealing questions.
How long would it take you to get to a free calendar? Not completely wiped clean, but free? The answer: About 5 months. I realized I couldn’t wait five months for a solution. Desperation and dread kicked me into gear to make some real headway in this long time search for calendar peace.
Why do you say yes? Because everything sounds fun to me. I like a lot of variety in life, a myriad of different activities. An invitation for coffee, to teach a class, attend a paint workshop, or a trip or an outing – it all sounds wonderful to me. Yet, a few months ago nothing sounded fun. Every line scribbled in a tiny space looked like duty.
Is your busy-ness God’s business? Does your calendar reflect His priority, not yours? Answer: I don’t know anymore. I am having a very hard time discerning which is what: what God is in or what I’ve orchestrated, calling it His call.
Have you consulted the Father over everything on your calendar? Answer: No. I’ve prayed over my calendar countless times, but I don’t think I have ever consulted God about everything written on it.
I had some real work to do.
I am not saying I’ve got this all figured out. I’m learning a new way and I want to share with you what has helped me. Last week something broke loose. Long time prayer puzzle pieces simply locked into place and I find myself in a quiet place soaking up what God is teaching me.
1. Give up your calendar to God.
I began just by sitting with my calendar and reviewing everything. Nothing was sacred. Every single appointment was up for grabs. What did God want me to do, not to do. take on, leave off? I was preparing myself for surrender and to be able to hear His answers. Depending on His lead, I hoped there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t say yes or no to.
Tim Keller helped me with this. The heart of wisdom I have been praying for – a part of wisdom is called discernment. Keller’s devotional, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life states, discernment is the ability to notice distinctions and shades of difference where others see only a blur. To be wise is to recognize multiple options and possible courses of action where others can imagine only one or two. Discernment is also the ability to tell the difference not just between right and wrong but also among good, better, and best.
There it was: good better or best. I began to look for and ask for God’s best and I began to like leaning on God.
2. Consult with the Father on everything.
Isaiah 30: 21 says, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears wil her a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”
As I prayed over every activity, I began to recognize dread. If dread was there, I would back off. When I felt a spark of life pulling me toward a certain activity, I leaned in. Verses jumped off the pages spurring me on to pray over every single commitment. One verse clearly said, remove the obstacles out of the way (Is. 57:14). I began to sense the red flag of warning, the white flag of surrender, and the green flag to move ahead.
Most of all I gave myself permissions: I do not have to take every call; I do not have to accept every invitation; I do not have to respond right away. Suzanne, don’t overthink things – live what you are learning. Oh, the freedom I have found!
3. Bow out gracefully.
This was the hardest. I knew there were some things God was asking me to give up, things I had committed to. I felt responsible. So I prayed for my replacements. With every phone call to bow out I was met with grace and understanding. God was doing a new thing and I found He made it easy to bow out. Some even voiced the need to do the same thing.
Are you held hostage to your calendar? Does it seem impossible to break loose? My eight year+ journey with this has been full of failures and restarts. This season, instead of dread I’m finding delight. Let’s chat!