How much time do you really have?

By: Pat Bryson
By: Pat Bryson

Recently, my friend, Neil Middleton, put on Facebook Benjamin Franklin’s quote, ”Lost time is never found again.” That is an awesome thought, when I realize how easy it is to take time for granted, waste it or use it selfishly.

Recently, my friend, Neil Middleton, put on Facebook Benjamin Franklin’s quote, ”Lost time is never found again.” That is an awesome thought, when I realize how easy it is to take time for granted, waste it or use it selfishly. Someone has said, “Time is money,” but we really don’t act like we believe that. We seem to be more careful with money than time, and I’m pretty sure that I would be more prone to throw away time than money

At different stages in our lives, time seems to move at varying tempos; for the little child, the lonely older person, and the hospital patient, time seems to creep along like a snail. During the activity-filled middle and high school years, though, the time actually flies (except during math class). The nine months of pregnancy seems interminable while the nine months of the college freshman year speeds by at an alarming rate. We have, at all stages, the feeling that we have an unending supply of time and the luxury to spend it extravagantly.

Coach John Wooden was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame twice — first as a player and then as a coach. In 1932, he was a member of Purdue’s national championship team. He then became one of America’s most respected coaches. He led UCLA to 10 national championships, a record that remains unbroken. Coach Wooden’s advice for life was straightforward: “Make each day your masterpiece.”

We really only have today to create our “work of art,” so we need to follow the coach’s advice and give the best we have to offer now. Harriet Beecher Stowe put it another way,” The past, the present and the future are really one: they are today.”

I think that one thing that tricks us about the use of time is the idea that it takes huge amounts of time to do something important. Important things take commitment, but as little as an hour or two a week can produce important results, like a winning academic team, the learning of the Bible in a church group or the fundamentals of a sport or musical instrument. Jerry often contributes to my articles, and after he read this one he said, “This principle also would work when facing big jobs like our messy garage. If we worked 30 minutes a week, we could have it organized!” It’s the unwillingness to make the commitment of those minutes or that hour or two that makes people stumble into inactivity or meaningless endeavors. On the other hand, over-commitment to every organization or sport or club can lead to the same failure to produce your “masterpiece”. It’s almost like we need to be smart or wise before being given time. I feel tricked somehow that I can’t keep in the front of my mind always how important every hour is. Bill Hybels, who leads one of the most successful churches today, in the Chicago area, says, “It’s incredible to realize that what we do each day has meaning in the big picture of God’s plan.” What if that is true? What if it really matters whether we sleep late or not, write that letter or not, listen to our child or not? Wise or unwise, we each are given the same number of hours each day and the same number of days each year. Someone, far wiser that I, has said that most of us waste the day we have regretting what we did or didn’t do yesterday or worrying about what might happen tomorrow.

Somehow, we need to decide what is important to us in the long run and decide to give a little chunk of time each week to that. When my children were little, I knew how important reading to small children was. My mother was a first grade teacher, and I had heard her say many times that the most important thing a parent could do to prepare her child to learn to read was to read to him/her. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned myself curled up with clean children in a clean house at the end of the day reading books to them. But, I had three children 4 and under, and I found myself some days lucky to feed them all. I decided that, no matter what, I would read four books (their choice) a day to each child. I thought to myself what’s wrong with a mother who has to put on a list “read to the children??” Whatever your answer to that question is, without that commitment, I would have never “had time” to read to them. And whether it was under the best of circumstances (often in a messy room), my children heard 12 stories a day, because 4 times 3 is 12, and they all heard all of them. Now what I didn’t do was take them to every lesson, every class or every place people expected me to. Somehow I kept second-guessing myself about that. I guess what I’m saying to myself and to parents is, “Decide what is important to you, commit time to that thing, and begin working on YOUR masterpiece.” I’m sure that you have heard it said that it is often the “good” that crowds out the “best.” Don’t let others decide what your children should do and where they should go. That is your responsibility. Reaching your goals consists of deciding what is good for you and your family, committing time to work toward that good and then DOING what it takes to get there, whether you feel like it or not. It always takes struggle to rise above mediocrity.

(You can reach Pat Bryson at

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