Recently, I was robbed. It was an unusual theft, but theft all the same. It still left me with feelings of anger from a situation imposed unfairly and grief that ensues from the loss. Large chunks of my time intended for a list of more worthwhile, enjoyable and many necessary things all taken from me. Over the past month, circumstances beyond my control set into motion the continual stealing from me, my time.
First it was a crisis that hit our family. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was encompassing, it was consuming and it was draining. Every inch of extra time and time I didn’t have was focused on dealing with the crisis. One week rolled into the second, but I had a speaking engagement that required hours of my time to prepare. We muddled through as best as we could and the light was at the end of the tunnel with much anticipated time for recuperation to greet me in the following week.
One glitch. Jury duty. No worries. Pack the bag of books and list. Go home at the end of the day. The rest of the week was mine. At the end of the day, when the others were sent home, seven of us stayed. The trial would not last more than three days they promised. Three days that were designated for recovery. Three days I wildly wanted to cling to only for them to be taken from me. The light, I so desperately wanted to be at the end of the tunnel, was not the light of day but the proverbial train. And I felt a wreck.
I wanted to scream, “I am at the end of my rope. I am emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. I DO NOT have the energy to set through a three day molestation case!” “Do you…..,” the judge said. I don’t remember what I pledged to do that day as a juror being sworn in, but I do remember holding up my hand and saying, “I will.”
As I made the emergency run to the grocery store, made arrangements for the kids after school and the shock kept the tears from rolling. All I could see was my precious time like water going down the drain, what was to be was not. Guilt tried to creep into my already scrambled mind, but my omelet of emotions already had too much going on to add another ingredient. Suck it up, do my duty, be a good citizen, it’s a privilege…. Couldn’t it have been another week? When the summons arrived in the mail, to defer made no sense, I had not yet been robed.
Here I was to be the decider of another crime, when I struggled with my own conflict. The crime was theft of my most valued possession second behind my relationships. My time.
Consider its value. The time you spend doing, being, accomplishing, completing, playing, laughing, living. We have 24 hours in a day and always wish for more. More time with family, more time to get that errand run, the job finished, the call made. Not enough time with family, to write the note, to exercise or have dinner with friends. Then there is the time you were going to spend with family, friends, catching up, recuperating, but something happens beyond your control and that time is gone.
It is when those things happen and just when you thought you were going to catch your breath, when something else happens….you are already down and you wonder how you will ever get back up.
I have brooded over my loss of time a lot lately, wasting yet more precious time. I lay limp in the arms of God feeling hopeless in trying to manage the everyday and what is to come, when so much was lost. Frustrated. Sad. Grieving. Wanting what I can’t get back.
I have been drawn to a book we did together as a community last year around this time, one thousand gifts, by Ann Voskamp. I resist it, because I know it will call me to be thankful and I know that my thanksgiving has been swooping big thanks, rote without emotion rather than looking for God in the small. It is hard to see when things are blurred.
My discontent over the past few weeks has left me sour inside. “I was robbed.” I tell God as if He doesn’t recall the events over the past month. “Please restore.” I plead. It is in the first few pages of a book I have already devoured, I realized that..
I was robbed.
While my time was squandered away on what I deemed meaningless and unnecessary usage, my ability to be thankful was not robbed. No, that choice always remained. Rather than focusing on the list of gifts that surely surrounded me, I wrote a list of another kind.
The list of things that were stolen from me. I wrote the list more than once, in my journal I penned the losses over and over again reminding myself and reminding God. The list of what I had hoped to do, what could have been done. The list of things that had to be rescheduled and then rescheduled again. I made the list of things that were taken from me rather than the things that were given.
I was robbed alright as I now look back. Robbed of my time, yes. But the reality has begun to set in on how I was robbed of more than my time. This thief was different. Instead of the umbrella of circumstances beyond my control to hide under, this thief was in my realm of avoiding. The thief was me.
I robbed myself from opening all the gifts God had for me along the way. Tears roll as I grieve all that I have lost, but gratefulness begins to reshape me. While I was living a life of discontent, I now take the step through the gates of thankfulness. Thankfulness is my ticket to contentment regardless of my circumstances.
I knew that. But when we are down, we sometimes forget.
I started a new list this morning and I wrote in my journal towards the bottom of the right page. “the list writing of gifts big and small throughout the day is a way for me to keep focused on all that is good, lovely, and pure and beautiful. A focus on Paul’s list in Philippians and a way to bring heaven down on earth like Jesus taught us to pray. This is why we must be thankful at all times and in all things.”
I lifted my pen and glanced at the verse printed at the bottom on the right page. It read, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…think about such things.” Philippians 4:8, NIV.
I was robbed.
Thankfulness. Returning to Christ as often as possible throughout the day, unwrapping gifts. This is the strength I missed. This is the strength I receive, when I turn my focus back to Him. Thankfulness is my road to recovery and it was there for me all the time. I am grateful and I begin to be restored.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” Isaiah 30:15, NRSV.