My youngest frequently asks me questions that stop me in my tracks. Like the time his little 3-year-old voice came floating forward from the back seat. “Mom? Why was Jonah a prophet? Shouldn’t we call him a missionary?”
Ummm… “How old are you?” I asked, stalling.
It was in Kindergarten that he asked me how many seconds were in a day. Of course, I was driving again. I had to beg him for a few minutes while I figured the answer in my head. “86,400 seconds in a day,” I said proudly.
“Oh.” He said. Then, “What are you going to do with your 86,400 seconds today?”
It’s a good question, don’t you think? God has given each one of us 86,400 seconds today. None of us get any more or any less. Here’s the thing: as I discussed in MINE, those seconds aren’t really ours. They belong to God. God has numbered our days, and our seconds. Every second we spend on this Earth is a gift. We can choose to squander that gift, or we can choose to spend those seconds serving our Lord and Savior.
The day I realized my days were numbered, I really sat down to ponder the time I had left. I’m not being morbid, here. Unless we enter the tiny ranks of Enoch and Elijah, or the Lord comes back soon (which would be SO cool!), not one of us will leave this earth alive. Maybe we’ll be especially long-lived and we’ll get 90 years here. Perhaps we’ll make the news, and stay here until we’re 104. In terms of history, that’s not really a long time. The older I get, the shorter it looks. Rather than depress me, this reality has created for me a sense of urgency and stewardship.
I don’t want to waste the time God has given me. I want to use everything He’s granted to me to honor and glorify Him. I want to leave a legacy of pointing to Jesus with everything I have. I want to sow seeds. Lots and lots of seeds. My son’s question (“What are you going to do with your 86,400 seconds today?”) echoes through my brain nearly four years later. What, indeed? How will I spend my time? Will I spend it watching television, working out, accumulating wealth, writing, reading, serving, eating, shopping, praying, sharing the Gospel? Those are important questions. I had to answer them before I could teach my children anything about stewarding time. I have to keep answering them on a daily basis.
I teach my children to steward their time by modeling proper time management for them, and by discussing their choices with them on a regular basis. Time stewardship is largely a function of prioritization and self-control. Those can be really difficult skills to practice. The sooner we begin, the better. When you begin making good time stewardship choices later in life, rather than as a child, developing good habits and behaviors becomes difficult. Ask yourself, and your kids: Will this matter in 5 years? Will it matter in 100 years?
One of the choices I, personally, have made is to read the Bible daily. Another choice has been to look around for something to clean before I sit down for a meal or to rest. (This keeps my house from drowning in piles of books, mail, dirty dishes and discarded sweatshirts.) A little more to the extreme end, my husband and I chose to stop watching television. We still watch a movie every once in a while, but otherwise the box stays off. We just have better things to do ~ like talk to each other, pray together, and read the Bible together.
As far as teaching time stewardship goes, I like to give my kids options. Because we homeschool, the option I find myself offering often sounds like this: “You can do your work efficiently and have plenty of free time, or you can choose to protest now, and you will need to spend your free time doing your work later.” I always say this with all the love and calm I can muster; then, I leave my child to choose. (Parents, if you offer choices in anger, your point is null and void. I know because I’ve done it more than once.) Other options: “you can help serve the Lord this way, or we can do this. We can’t do both. What use of your time do you think honors the Lord? How do you know?” “You can play with LEGOs for half an hour, or you can study your AWANA book for 15 minutes, then play with LEGOs for 15 minutes.” I have to say, I’m really proud of some of the choices my children make.
I think it’s important, as well, to teach our children to rest. It’s important that children play; it helps them grow and learn. It’s important that our kids have down time. It’s important that they have choices, so that when they are later confronted with 86,400 choices a day without any supervision, they aren’t paralyzed or wasteful.
Beyond choices, we discuss priorities: “What is more important – your schoolwork, or riding your bike? What is more important – riding your bike, or watching a movie? Why?”
I prefer to ask questions, rather than to lead with a lecture. My kids read the Bible, they go to adult church, they listen to my husband and I discuss our choices, and they have heard my ideas on time stewardship. By asking questions, I give them the space to work out how they feel about time. By listening, I make it clear that I care about how they feel and what they think. That often opens the door for conversation. Sometimes it gives me something new to pray over.
Relationship building, conversation and prayer… those are pretty good ways for me to spend a few of my 86,400 seconds for the Lord. How will you spend yours?
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.