Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
Now that Zack is in Middle School, his homework has increased ten fold. I presumed that with a little bit of help to get him started, he could manage it by himself. But after the first few weeks in September of me yelling at him for not getting things done, I realized he was in over his head. It’s not that he’s not capable of doing the actual work; it’s that he’s not able to organize the assignments coming from five different teachers, all with different due dates. Once I conceded to the fact that I had to be the one to outline, on a daily basis, what needed to be done and when, he’s been doing great.
I’ve also been using the “delayed gratification” approach: work first, reward later. Zack’s chosen reward is video games. He’ll walk through fire, over shards of glass, if it means he can play a half hour of Minecraft or Terraria. Using that as the carrot successfully motivates him to stay focused. Things were going great. I thought I had it figured out. I thought the next step was to teach Zack how to prioritize and organize himself.
But as the school year progresses, the homework assignments are increasing. The list of what he needs to accomplish before playing video games is getting longer and longer. In addition, his teachers are raising their standards, requiring more attention to detail. Zack’s starting to fight the delayed gratification approach, and I’m hearing “Can I play screens now?” every three minutes. I’m starting to question the success of my system.
Zack isn’t the only one struggling with increased responsibilities and delayed gratification. I woke up yesterday with vertigo. Sure, it could be one of the many sinus infections I get every year, or a touch of the bug Zack had earlier in the week, or that I need stronger glasses, or a combination of all three. But my gut tells me the underlying issue is stress related. How can I possibly be the one to teach Zack how to prioritize and organize his life if I can’t do it successfully for myself?
“Teach us to number our days aright” doesn’t mean we just need to order our days correctly. It also means we need to number the hours within those days correctly. Zack had to look to me to help him order his days when he was struggling. It’s become clear to me that I need to look to God to help me order mine.
When I do, when I bring my stress and long To-Do lists to God for His help, He never fails me. If I’m truly open to His instruction, I can see where I’ve gone wrong: where I’ve taken on too much, where I’ve given too much importance to some things and not enough to others, where I’ve poured out too much of myself before going to Him to be filled, where I’ve charged ahead on my own when I should have been patient and sought His counsel first. The list is endless!
But no matter how many mistakes I make, no matter how many times I number my days wrong, He is eternally patient with me. When He reveals my mistakes, He does so with love and compassion so I don’t feel badly about myself. Instead, His persistent desire for my well being inspires me to try again to get it right.
So I’ll reshuffle the deck. I’ll try to implement the changes He’s revealed to me. I’ll learn the “Sacred No” so I take on less. I’ll try to look through His eyes so that I see what is truly important. Most importantly, I’ll resume my Sabbath Spaces.
Sabbath Spaces are those pauses I take throughout the day to go to God to be refilled so I don’t get drained. It can be a silent prayer in the car, a conversation with Him as I fold laundry, or escaping to the bathroom for three minutes to read the daily devotional in Kristin Armstrong’s Heart of My Heart .
My favorite and most “filling” routine is to sit for twenty minutes before my kids get off the bus with a hot cup of coffee, Living Faith magazine, and the Bible. Going to God’s Word always shifts how I look at things. As Mark Buchanan says in his book The Rest of God – Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath, “God is more interested in changing your thinking than in changing your circumstances.” When I allow Him to change my perspective, it’s amazing how everything suddenly falls into place.
Now I understand why video games mean so much to Zack. I know it may not seem like a holy activity to us adults, but for Zack it is sacred time. It helps him empty out the angst of the day. Moreover, it’s the one venue where he’s completely in charge. He goes from being an eleven-year-old boy who is constantly told what to do by all the adults in his life, to being the ruler of the virtual worlds he creates. That is empowering. That fills and satisfies him for now. Eventually I’ll teach him that going to God to be filled is far more satisfying, but he’s just a kid, after all.
Yes, Zack and I have a lot of new responsibilities that we need to attend to. But now when I order our days, I can’t push our rewards to the end of our long lists. I have to scatter them throughout so that both He and I are constantly recharging and refilling. And on those days when our lists are even longer than usual, whose to say I can’t gift us both with bonus Sabbath Spaces!
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