Spiritual Time Management
A Sermon by Rev. Rich Tafel
May 16, 2021
Today I want to talk about how we manage our time.
Now at first this might not seem to be a topic that has anything to do with church or your spiritual life. Shouldn’t time management be something you would get in business school or at work?
I’m here to say time management has a very spiritual connection and if we can bring our faith into our time management, it can be spiritually transformative.
In my coaching practice, I ask clients what they value. Having coached hundreds of people most all of us say very similar things: Family, Friends, Health, Safety, Learning, Art Love and Faith. This might be a fun exercise for you to do.
After they tell me what the value, I ask them to show me where on their weekly schedule those values exist.
Jesus says in the gospel, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is true of time because the truth is what you value or treasure is where you spend your time and money. But time is even more important than money because our time is limited, and we all get the same amount each week.
What you value in your life is who you really are. Where you spend your time is what you value. Where we spend our time is who are.
Now, I think you can see that time management is really soul management.
We often convince ourselves that we value things that we spend no time on. To truly align to what you want to be, you must spend your time doing it.
Jesus told us the parable of a He told them a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced an abundance. 17So he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, since I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and will build bigger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods. 19Then I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry!” ’
20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’
21This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Swedenborg also warns us that we should invest our time in eternal things. He points out that there temporal or material concerns that have no eternal value. The two he mentions are status and wealth. That makes sense. When we die, we can’t take our status with us. We can imagine an executive of a huge corporation or celebrity yelling at angels, “Do you know who I am?” and them saying, not really.
If I look at my weekly schedule I spend a lot of time doing good things, but some are things I must do to pay the bills. Sometimes I’m focused on what I’ll eat or watch. Those don’t sound like eternal investments. How can we invest our time in the things that we value and that are eternal?
Does that mean that we shouldn’t every invest in work that pays well?
The answer, for so much of our spiritual life, is to ask why we are doing it?
Why do you do what you do? Is it for service to others and the good of humanity or is it simply selfish acts for myself?”
Reviewing how we spend our time through the lens of asking, “Why am I doing this? Will answer if this act is an invest in the eternal or time limited?
Looking through our activities through that lens means that what might appear to be the same activity as going to work to get paid, could be an eternal investment if the motivation is to allow us to do good or it also be a time-limited l investment if it is all about selfishness.
I notice this divide between eternal and time limited investment quite a bit in my social networks . DC is a very transactional city, maybe the most. People meet people, try to quickly figure out what they do. They then decide is that conversation going to further my career or not. If yes, continue to talk. If no, cut the conversation short. Only invest your time in people who can help your business or status.
A friend who thinks like this recently criticized me about this late last year. “You spend a lot of time with people who don’t seem to be in a position to help your business. This seems like a bad investment.” He went to reflect that he’d recently had a conversation with a mutual friend who could no longer get him business and he saw little reason to continue the friendship.
He also commented to me how lonely he was.
What he’s missing is that investing your time solely into things that advance your career or put more money in your pocket are bad investments. If our essence is our eternal soul, then the smarter, long-term investment is to use your time for good that has eternal impact.
In other words, the smartest way to invest your time each week is to align your motivation for good and invest in things and people where you and they will grow. This is a spiritual investment as time management.
Don’t get me wrong. Investing your time in eternal things doesn’t just pay off in heaven. This is not a heaven based strategy because we decide whether to live in heaven or hell on this planet.
When you are kind to others and invest time in others, you are investing in yourself here and now. We all know the person who only invests for strategic reasons. They ultimately end up lonely. We also know people who invest eternally through acts of love and charity. They are fun to be around. Their kindness is magnetic. This isn’t just a heavenly investment it pays off here and now and leads to a good, happy and peaceful life.
Where you spend your time is where your love is. What you love is who you are.
Friday night our dear church president, Helen Sirois, transitioned into the spiritual world. Helen made a major decision in her own life of where to invest her time. Her neighbor, Malcolm Peck, had the courage to invite her to a church event. Eventually she joined. That was thirty-five years ago. Helen invested in things that were eternal and when the time came for her to leave this her earthly life, she was surrounded by our little church community of people who she loved and who loved her back.
She and I had many conversations these past few months and the thing she marveled in the most was the community of love she found herself in.
Time management is a spiritual act. Invest in people who can’t help you in a material way and you’ll grow your soul. That’s an eternal investment.
How do you start doing this?
I’ll share an exercise I do with clients based on a theory of big rocks taught by Stephen Covey. Covey did an exercise where he showed a bunch of rocks of different sizes and bucket. He asked participants to put the rocks in the bucket. People tried, but couldn’t do it.
He then showed them the secret by putting in the biggest rocks first and pouring the small rocks in afterward.
The parable of this for us in this is to put the important things onto our schedule first. Take those values I started with family, health, faith, learning or whatever they are for you. Then, take a look at your schedule a month out, when it is clear.
Now put onto your schedule those values in blocks of time. Make a deal that you’ll protect those times and let other things be scheduled around this. If you do these days of focusing values will become weeks. Weeks of value driven time will turn into months. Months of value driven time management will turn into years. Years of value driven schedules will turn into a life.
There’s an expression, focus on the hours and the years will take care of themselves.
Take some time to think through what you value most. Clear time on your schedule and protect those values. This investment in values will turn into habits. This is what spiritual discipline and practice looks like.
This way of looking at time management might just be one of the most important investments you can possibly make for your soul.
There’s no better time to start than right now. I will close with one of my favorite quotes of Swedenborg:
“Even the smallest fraction of a moment of a person’s life entails a chain of consequences extending into eternity. In fact, every moment is like a new beginning to those that follow.”
We are given the chance every day, at any age, to make a new beginning by deciding where we spend our time.