I took the challenge! Hugh Salisbury, professor of pastoral studies, asked for volunteers to track a week of their life. The goal was to account for every half hour for a whole week and measure how well we were redeeming the time. This sounded right up my alley. My dad was one of the most efficient men I knew, and he had trained me well. This challenge would reveal that I knew how to bust my tail with the best.
With a full college load, new bride, construction jobs on the side, a position as a part-time youth pastor, and a son on the way, I was swamped. There was zero discretionary time . . . of that I was sure. I was looking forward to putting my charted week up against anyone else.
Professor Salisbury took a particular interest in me and a few others. He was bold and dared to ask questions few men could get out of their mouths. He was honest about sexual temptation, compromise, and how to order your private life in a way that cut Satan off at the pass. He had a heart for pastoral students to be men who heard from God one day, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Central to his discipleship of me and a handful of others was helping us understand how we handled the time God gave us. He believed a man who could account for his time was poised for a "fruitful and shameless life." In his seventies, this extremely fit, white-haired man would roar with passion about being more focused on who we were, not what we knew. In retrospect, Professor Salisbury was preparing each of us for being a pastor and a good man; he never just assumed the two went together.
The challenge began. I found that the first two days caused me to be quite aware of my time and slightly more disciplined than I might otherwise have been. On day three, I got a bit nervous. I had a ton to get done, and the awareness raised by tracking time caused me to jump on assignments and tasks more quickly. Now I was wrapping things up, knocking papers out, and prepping for messages and classroom presentations like never before. I was even taking Junanne on dates, having deep talks at our favorite yogurt shop.
By day four, five, and six, I started fudging my tracking. Something that took fifteen minutes, I rounded up to thirty minutes. I even panicked a bit because the first three days had been so productive I was struggling to find things to do. I thought, "What is happening?" I told Junanne I was feeling like a bit of a slacker. Her words made me feel a bit better: "Bub, you're the most productive guy I know." I may have been productive relative to some, but the lesson Prof Salisbury wanted me to learn was getting driven home. Day seven I just wrote off to a day of rest. I figured I couldn't get penalized for being a Biblicist. At our next class, the professor asked who wanted to share what they'd learned. Every guy had the same experience; it was a race to apologize for not spending time more wisely. The banter was loud and spirited. Hugh Salisbury just stood back and listened. Then he spoke. "Gentlemen, I didn't ask you to take this challenge to shame you. I desire that you understand just how much time God has graciously given you. And that by understanding, you will learn to redeem time. Come on, men, it's right there in the Bible!" That class with Professor Salisbury challenged and encouraged me; the one-week challenge changed my life.
This challenge aims not to get you worshiping work or becoming consumed with minutes of the day; it's to help you redeem the time as a way of honoring God. It's to work hard, play hard, and learn to recharge without the shame of a wasted life.
You will want to be looking for what areas of your life are time wasters to remove those from your calendar. Also, identify slots in your week that can be redeemed for strategic activities or even reserved for rest and relaxation. The goal is to bring your calendar in alignment with God's calling on your life.