It’s been a lot more than a month since the promised monthly update. I’ll blame it on a lack of self-discipline… or perhaps on the presence thereof.
Every day, we face choices about where to spend our time. In this particular season of life, that has often meant not writing, even things I want to write. I have a family to care for, a church to serve, work to do, and schoolwork to accomplish. Family is a daily endeavor, work and school nearly so, and church regular if not quite daily. In the midst of that, I have to decide: What will I do today?
Our culture tends to put the question in terms of balance; my friend and pastor Ashok Nachnani suggested to me a while back that it is better to think in terms of faithfulness. “Balance” suggests holding all these things in equal proportion, juggling them against each other. “Faithfulness” suggests fulfilling the responsibilities as best we can, with the time we are given. The actual day-to-day outcome may not look particularly different, but it is an important shift in the way we think nonetheless. To be faithful may mean letting some desireable things go, and it may mean doing some things in a different way or to a lesser degree than we might like.
Writing, for example.
I love writing. I like keeping a public record for my friends and family to see how my life is. I enjoy stretching my mental muscles in the way that writing requires. I enjoy thinking through pen or keyboard. But faithfulness to the responsibilities God has given me right now means not trying to balance those desires against each other, and instead doing what is best for my family and my church. For the most part, right now that means not writing.
As I put it to Jaimie a while back, at this point in life I have time for one hobby—and only one. That hobby, at this point, is fitness. I run half marathons, and now I do triathlons (first one coming up in 10 days!). That takes up a non-trivial amount of time every week. It helps me in the other areas of my life, to be sure: it helps me be less physically tired, improves my focus in school and work, and serves to maintain my health. Nonetheless, it is hobby-like and it takes a substantial amount of time every day.
So right now, I write a great deal less than I want, and a great deal less than I did in college or early in our marriage. I miss the days when I had time to work on poetry for hours at a stretch, or simply to muse for a few thousand words. But it is far more important for me to spend time with Ellie and Kate than it is to write poetry, or to compose music, right now. Lord willing, I have 55–60 years ahead of me. Of those years, they will be close only another 15–20, and they will be the age they are today only for today. As much as writing and composing and hobby programming all look appealing to me, and as much as those really are good expressions of the ways God has gifted me, focusing on them would not be the most faithful use of my time—not today.
This is not to say that writing and composing and developing interesting software are not important. Rather: they are good and valuable things. But they are things to focus on at other times in life. As fast as this life goes, and I am increasingly aware that it goes quickly indeed, I can expect in the ordinary course of things to have many years available for those things. I can exercise my gifts faithfully in the right time and season. Today, I can learn to love my little girls well, invest deeply in their lives, and savor moments that will never come back.
Most of all, I must remind myself that teaching and shaping them is easily the most significant thing I will ever do. Should I write an essay that persuaded a thousand people to change their views on the arts, or to adopt a better view of the church, still my impact on two little lives would be more important. If I can point them faithfully to Christ and help them learn to walk faithfully with him as healthy members of his body, that will be a good life to have lived. Everything else is icing on the cake.
Icing is good, for the record. Sometimes, in these sorts of posts, we can mistake relative importance for absolute importance. I should, at various times in my life, make sure to exercise the good gifts God has given me in ways appropriate to that time and context. Right now, that means continuing to write, but less frequently. In the future, it will mean something else.
And all of this must stand in the context of resurrection hope. Too often, I live—too often, we all live—as though the next 60 years are all we may expect, the only time for writing and composing and so on. But it is not. I look forward to endless ages of creativity, exercising those gifts more fully than I am able now. So: Lord Jesus, come soon. And in the meantime, may I be faithful in each season to do as well as I can.