Every December I invest fifteen hours or so to plan my life for the next twelve months. I review my current activities, I add some items, remove others, and I prioritize.
Then I literally budget how many hours each week I’ll invest in each area. Last year I decided to write a book, I budgeted hours for it, and it was published last December.
For the last ten years, I’ve budgeted about five hours a week in a small non-profit group. While planning this year, I began to question that investment. They are a great group, but I’m not sure I’m making a difference. I wondered if my weekly five hours is bearing fruit.
Actually, I did more than wonder. I obsessed. When my wife asked what to do for our weekly date, I talked about my question. While washing dishes, I mused on my concern. I emailed friends, talked with strangers, and tossed and turned all night. Obsessing.
A weekly five hour duty was grabbing fifty-percent of my mind. Probably more. I beseeched God how to budget that time. I just wanted an answer to my question.
Instead of telling me how to budget my time, God told me to learn to budget my brain.
My sister Sarah went to a small college where you actually got to know the professors.
Her Eastern European History professor was her favorite, Professor Petrovich. He was Yugoslavian, and he was the official interpreter for President Jimmy Carter whenever Yugoslavian President Tito was in Washington D.C.
Professor Petrovich was also a character, and was almost always late for appointments.
One day he was really late, late for a plane flight. He raced down the freeway at almost ninety miles an hour. A police car began to chase him with sirens wailing, but he kept going. Soon half a dozen police cars joined the chase, and they pulled him over.
He jumped out of the car and yelled at the officers, “I am the interpreter for the President of the United States. I’ve got to catch a plane. If I don’t, it will be a humiliation for President Carter and a dishonor to President Tito. I’ve got to get to the airport now!”
The officers looked at each other, rushed back to their cars, and escorted the professor to the airport with lights flashing and sirens wailing, as though they were escorting the president himself. It was the ride of the professor’s life.
After he told my sister this story, he concluded in his thick accent: “Sawah, the moral of the story is, ‘When you lie, lie B-E-E-E-G!’”
I once met with a man—let’s call him Adam—who described himself as a, “recovering charismatic.” His mother fanatically—maybe frenetically—flitted from one worship experience to another; she visited Toronto, Florida, Bethel Church in California, and anywhere she heard “something” was happening.
When she wasn’t traveling to Christian conferences, worship music blared throughout the house, or her iPod (filled with worship songs) was glued to her ears. She needed the euphoric “oomph” of worship music to provide motivation for the tiniest of tasks.
However, she remained anxious, self-concerned, and perhaps narcissistic. She’d say, “I just want to go where God is working,” but it seemed she really wanted escape, a place where her problems could be anesthetized.
Adam added, “A friend of mine became a crack addict. Frankly I didn’t see much difference between him and my mom. They got their highs in different ways, and their lives remained a mess.”
“I wonder,” he said, “if modern worship is just a cocaine rush.”
Recently, a group of friends and I were faced with a decision that would significantly affect each of us. I met with two of my friends to discuss the issue. One of us thought we should do it, one thought we shouldn’t do it, and one thought that great pain would come either way, if we did it or if we didn’t.
While the three of us disagreed on what should happen, we realized that we shared three things: each of us felt we knew what should happen; each of us felt strongly we knew what should happen; and each of us felt a bit of anxiety that the “right” decision might not happen. Even the friend who didn’t know what should happen knew either decision would be harmful, he felt strongly either decision would be harmful; and he was a bit anxious that one or the other decision would happen.
We realized our minds had begun to be engrossed with the most persuasive words to express our opinion, and we began to fixate on whom to talk with about what steps needed to take place. And our thought life had become consumed by the decision. We were preoccupied with what the future would like look if the decision was made or what it would look like if it wasn’t made.