“I don’t have time.” This might be the most common reason given for why we say “no” to invitations, tasks, favors, etc. At the risk of angering everyone who reads this, I’m proclaiming that this excuse is a complete lie and should be taken out of our vocabulary. And this is why.
Think back to a time when you have said this. Here is an example from my life. Recently, my husband asked me to call Ohio Gas to find out how much we owe since we couldn’t find the bill. “I don’t have time,” I explained. That was a lie. This is what I should have said, “I spend most of my day, completely scatterbrained, hoping to keep myself and the kids alive and mostly well. Sometimes I can’t remember if I brushed my teeth that morning. Then when naptime comes and I have 90 minutes to actually do things like pay the bills or make phone calls, I notice that Hoarders is on the tv and I would much rather sit on the couch, stare blankly at the nightmarish scenes on the screen, and let my mind go completely numb.”
At some point in my life, here are some of the things I have said “I don’t have time” to do:
· Playing with my children
· Reading my bible
· Working out
· Eating Healthy or making dinner for my family
· Spending time with my husband
· Calling friends and family
· Cleaning the house
· Going to church
· Joining a small group
· Running Errands
· Managing my household
· Writing encouraging notes or thank you notes
· Partaking in ministry
· Spending time with my friends and family
It is not a matter of free time during the day. One could argue that we all have 24 hours of free time every day. We choose what our priorities are and what activities are worthy enough to drink up a portion of that time. Instead, “I don’t have time” should be translated “That is not a priority for me.” My choice to vapidly watch Hoarders during the hour I should be most productive during my day obliterates that excuse for me. So does my choice to write a blog post, check facebook 10 times a day (okay, 100 times a day), read the latest on the Kardashians, or exercise more than the 30 minutes/5 times a week recommendation from the CDC. As long as I am able to act on my own free will, I am not able to honestly say, “I don’t have time.”
So why do we say it?
1. Because the truth hurts. It always stings when you find out that you are not a priority in someone’s life, even if it is understandable. It makes complete sense to me when my friends turn me down for a girls’ night so they can go on a date with their husband. It still stings, although not as much as if their reason was to…I don’t know…watch Hoarders. We don't like to hurt people. We don't like to let them down. We don't like them to think poorly of us.
It also hurts us because it brings us awareness of our selfishness, our inability to meet the needs of others, or our ability to hurt others so easily. While the bible tells us not to condemn ourselves when we sin because Christ’s blood has washed us clean (Romans 8:1-2), there are times when the Holy Spirit convicts us (John16:7-11), calls for repentance (1 John 1:9; Proverbs 1:23), and implores us to change our priorities (Deuteronomy 6;Matthew 22:35-40) . Have you ever not called someone back simply because you don’t LIKE talking to them? Have you ever dodged someone’s presence because you don’t ENJOY being with them. Even without conviction from the Holy Spirit, you have to be pretty hard-hearted to not feel bad. Why else would we say it?
2. Because it is easier. It is easier than having a hard conversation with someone about why we don’t want to do whatever they ask. The real reason might reveal something in us that we don’t want to share.
· Will you help organize the fundraiser?
I feel so overwhelmed with life right now that if I add one more thing I’m going
to start crying uncontrollably. I don’t have time.
· Do you want to go get lunch?
I don’t want to
go get lunch because I’m on the first week of a diet and eating out always makes me fall off
the wagon. I don’t have time.
· Do you want to come over for a playdate?
because every time I walk in your house I’m so overwhelmed with jealousy for
how perfect your life seems. I don’t have time.
· Honey, could you stop by the drycleaner and pick up my suit?
No, because I’m really angry over that thing you said yesterday
so I don’t want to do anything nice for you. I don’t have time.
· Mommy, will you build me a train track?
because every time I build one, you destroy it five minutes later and then you
throw the tracks all over the basement. I don’t have time.
As Christians, we know that life is fleeting ( Psalm 39:4-5) and we are called to make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:15-16). The result of choosing our priorities poorly can be negative. I’ve lost friends because I didn’t intentionally carve out time for them. My marriage has suffered when I didn’t make date nights and important conversations a priority with my husband. My house, my body, and my mind have suffered from laziness.
On the other hand, the wise ways I’ve used my time has reaped rewards. My heart has been blessed by my participation with the ministry of Young Life. My children will grow up with memories of a Mommy who can easily turn into a tiger, witch, ghost, or princess in a castle with dirty grout and dog snot on the windows. They will grow up, knowing about Jesus because church is a priority. They will have memories of their grandparents because we take the time to drive south to visit them. The time I have put into prayer and bible study has given me a heart that adores, worships, and communes with the God that so many others see as distant and harsh (Jeremiah 29:13).
I have time. I just don’t always have the desire.
So I’m curious. When I am tempted to answer “I don’t have time” to some invitation, what do you think is best?
· To continue with the lie to save time, energy, and feelings?
· To be brutally honest and really tell people what’s on your mind? Is honesty really like a kiss on the lips (Proverbs24:26)?
· To do what is asked of you if you are unable or unwilling to give the real explanation of why you do not want to?