This article originally published in the March 2009 issue of groundswell.

“I don’t have time.”  These words, flowing so quickly and freely out of my mouth, sicken me.

Anymore, they not need cross my lips–as soon as the thought emerges, my body instinctively responds, and not in positive ways.  It has gotten to the point where my stomach literally turns and my eyes immediately roll as soon as those words cross my mind.

I am a liar.  I am sickened by my use of “I don’t have time” because, truly, I do have time.  I have time for my work.  I have time for my dear friends.  I have time to write, even though I would often like more.

I have begun the incredibly difficult process of choosing my priorities and fighting against anything that comes in the way of me meeting those priorities.

Where along the way did “I don’t have time” become an okay response to anything?  We all have the same amount of time.  We have become poor at making priorities a priority.  And we have become even worse at taking responsibility for those decisions–thinking somehow that saying “I don’t have time” relinquishes me from me responsibilities.

“I don’t have time” becomes the instantaneous cliche response–relinquishing us from the difficult task of being honest with people.  On this very morning, a group of friends is gathering for a few hours to casually walk around together.  I didn’t want to go–the week was tiring, my heart was heavy, and I just wanted some time to refresh.

The easy response to the invitation  could have been “I don’t have time.”  And truly, I have a laundry-list of things with which I could fill my day–none with which my friends would disagree.  The truth is, however, I just didn’t want to go.

So I did the hard thing of saying “not this time.”  And can you guess what I found?  They said, “okay” and we moved on with life.  That was it.  No pressure, no guilt, nothing.

We fool ourselves into believing that being truly honest will result in people being angry.  Sometimes that may be true.  But would you rather carry the guilt of lying?

Prioritizing means saying no to some things.  I recently stepped down from a leadership position at my church.  Truth be told, I shouldn’t have accepted it in the first place.  And God let me know it.  Time after time in the Word, He revealed occasions when the Israelites made deals without consulting with Him first.  In prayer, He kept asking me, “So, why did you join that?”  And I would scurry to the next topic because I knew deep down, I had done it without first asking Him.  I made the mistake of the Israelites.  My choice stood before me:  was I going to put off making it right until I had to pay the price the Israelites paid?  My answer was no.  But my process took some reflection.

I wanted so badly to blame it on time.  Once again, nobody would fault me.  But blaming it on time would be a flat-out, 100% lie.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have time; it was that I didn’t want to make other things less of a priority in my life.

I had so fiercely carved out protective moats around my shiny-new priorities, every one of which was God-approved, that I refused to put them in the backseat for the sake of a mess of my own creation.

Cleaning p the mess was humbling.  I had to admit that my usually sure decision was faulty, and it was sinful.

I could not live with the idea that telling my pastor “I don’t have time” would be technically true, but it would not be the Truth.

Prioritizing means making hard decisions.  And it means being honest with others.  What I have found is that when I explain that, I am sorry, but I have chosen a priority that will conflict with whatever is being offered, people usually respond with “You know, I need to be better about making priorities a priority.”

So here it is.  This is your official permission to be honest.  You have permission to look at your life, choose your priorities (I recommend you ask God first), and then be honest with the world about those priorities.  Stop being ashamed of having the same amount of time as everyone else.  Stop giving in to the lie of “I don’t have time” and live vibrantly in the freedom that truth offers.

photo by Sigurd Decroos

Throwbacks are all about bringing in previously-published articles.  These articles appeared back when groundswell was published in the form of an email newsletter.  The photos are newly added to the blog.

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