The Tyrrany of Schedules

The Tyrrany of Schedules

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Once upon a time, I listened to people lament that they couldn’t get everything done and I secretly thought they must not be trying hard enough. See, back in those days I was a seminary student with a Naval officer husband, living in our first home—a 3 bedroom townhouse with a teeny yard.

Don’t get me wrong, we were busy. I had internships and volunteer work, he had shifts and extended deployments. But we still had plenty of time to catch a movie at the last minute, or have friends over for dinner. I used to do spur-of-the-moment crafting projects. As in, “Hey, I think I’ll refinish that bookcase tonight.” I’d take my ambitious self to the store at 8 p.m., get the supplies I needed and finish the job around 1 a.m.

Then we had a child. We bought a bigger house. I worked, he worked. I started freelancing. He started his Master’s program. He changed jobs, I began working from home. We cannot get everything done. If the house gets cleaned, I didn’t get any writing done. If my daughter has a special school function, I don’t get a workout in. If we go away for a weekend, the day before and the day after are consumed with packing and unpacking so nothing else gets done.

I know you relate.

So in an attempt to get organized a bit, I got a really cool calendar of cleaning chores. Each day there are a few things to do. It helps me focus; I no longer get lost in a sea of “I don’t even know where to begin.” It helps me set a schedule to my day and I love a good list.

Some days, though, the pressure of that list makes me cranky. I’m in the middle of disinfecting the light switches and my daughter wants me to play Frozen with her. (I’m Anna, she’s Elsa.) Or it’s bedtime and the laundry needs done and my mom calls to chat. Or dinner has to happen now or bath time will be late and bedtime will be late and I haven’t sat down all day and my husband comes home and wants to have a drink on the patio and watch the sunset.  (Seriously, the sunset!)

In these moments, I think things like “Why can’t all these people leave me alone! Why do they all need ME!? I’m on a schedule!”

One day in the midst of one of those moments, a story came to mind. It went like this:

One day, as Jesus was leading worship, a woman came into church. She was crippled and in pain. Jesus stopped, right in the middle of his sermon, and he said, “Be healed!”

Some of the congregation complained. “This is a holy day! It’s a day for resting, teaching and learning, not a day for healing. Woman, you’ve been crippled for years, surely you could have waited one more day rather than interrupt our worship. Jesus, you’re on our time right now. Your schedule says so.”

Jesus replied, “This woman has waited long enough. Can we ask her to wait one more day just so I can stay on schedule? It is right and good and holy to pay attention to the people God sends into our lives.”

Obviously that’s a paraphrase. The biblical version can be found in Luke 13:10-17. Other gospels have slightly different accounts of Jesus’ take on the Sabbath. In Matthew and Luke, it’s a healing that occurs. In Mark, it’s simply picking grain. Mark’s version ends with the pronouncement, “The Sabbath was made for humans, humans were not made for the Sabbath.”

This is really what popped into my head. “Schedules were made for humans, humans were not made for schedules.”

Schedules and lists are useful. They help us balance. Without one, I might spend all day frittering away on Facebook or staring around a messy house trying to figure out where to start. I might not get a workout or prayer time in. But schedules become our enemy when they become a taskmaster. They are a helping tool, not an idol to be worshipped.

Every day, every minute, there are choices to be made. Not everything will get done. Sometimes we really do have to say, “Not now, I have to finish this job.” But we should also be willing to say, “You know what, this can wait. Maybe forever. Because you are more important than any job and I would love to spend time with you.” This constant balancing act, the tension between what needs done and what gets done, isn’t easy. It’s actually the hardest thing in my life right now. Yet it is also a place that holds tremendous opportunity for holiness. It’s the place where we get to practice, constantly practice, figuring out what’s really important. Who doesn’t need a little more practice with that?

Whatever your schedule holds, whatever else demands your attention this week,

Go barefoot.

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