The Magic of Shutting the Gates

Time –

it’s the big equalizer among all of us.  You have 24 hours in a day and I have 24 hours in a day.

So the ‘I don’t have time for God’ excuse just doesn’t fly.  We all have 24 hours and some of us find regular time with God.

Yes, I know all of our situations are different – work schedules, kid’s schedules, and all kinds of commitments fill our calendars.  That’s where the challenge comes – how we choose to fill our calendars.  Because it’s a choice.

I am now in a very blessed time of my life in relation to time because I am retired.  I retired 2 years ago and I’m still in the ‘awed’ stage of my new schedule.  This cannot possibly be my life now!  My calendar is 99% filled with things I want to do.  I have a lot of time for God.

But this was not true of my life before retirement.  I worked for 34 1/2 years straight for Corporate Jack in the Box.  I was married with a 9 month-old child when I started for Jack and had another baby 4 years later.  I traveled a lot and got promoted regularly gaining more and more  responsibility with a dream of becoming a VP.

With a husband who worked, 2 kids, a house, a dog and a 60-hour workweek, you can imagine my life.  And right in the middle of all of that, God challenged me to put him first.  I had been running on empty for quite awhile, not happy when I realized that this is how the rest of my life could be.  So when I realized that God was offering me the only way I was going to find the joy and purpose in the middle of this craziness, I accepted the challenge.

And I began to reorganize my priorities.  I changed my focus from my career onto my relationship with God.  I started using my time differently –  I stopped working 60 hours a week.  I cut down to 40 or 45 hours a week, always used all of my vacation days to spend with my family and asked God to take care of the next raise or promotion.  Interesting – I performed better when I worked less and I ended up with a career that blessed my family instead of taking away from my family.

My week was still packed with work, kids, sports, work travel, and more.  There wasn’t much I could do about that.  So I revamped my weekends.  I stopped planning anything on Saturday night that would make us too tired to get up for church on Sunday.  I started doing my laundry, shopping and cleaning on Saturday, leaving Sunday open for worship and time with my spiritual family in the morning.  Sunday afternoon became a great time for Bible study small groups.  Sunday became God’s day – all day.

I admit, it was hard for me to find my personal time with God during the week.  I have never been a ‘get up at 4 am to read my Bible type of person’.  It just doesn’t work for me – I’m a ‘get up at 4 am and go right to work’ person.  I’m also not a ‘read a devotional every day’ type person.  I don’t get much from that, I want to dig deeper.

So in the middle of the busiest time of my life, I would try to find an hour or two here or there during the week with God, knowing that I was going to dedicate Sunday to him.  I believe God honored my desire to spend time with him because, somehow, I would often find myself spending two or three precious hours with him on Saturday as well.

I find it interesting to read when Nehemiah confronts the leaders in Jerusalem about ‘neglecting God’.  They had stopped supporting the Levites so the Levites had to go get jobs and were unable to serve in the temple.  Everyone had started working on the Sabbath – selling all sorts of produce and merchandise inside the walls of Jerusalem.

This could not go on so Nehemiah shut the gates to Jerusalem when Sabbath started and they stayed closed until the Sabbath ended.  He put guards on the gates and told everyone to start bringing their tithes to the temple again and start supporting the Levites so they could go back to their temple duties.

He shut the gates.

I feel like that is what I needed to do to find significant time to spend with God.  I had to shut the gates on all the other things that me and my family could do on Sundays.  I had to shut the gates to the things my family could do that would keep us out late or up late on Saturday.  I had to reorganize Saturdays to make room for God in my weekends.  Looking back, I feel like this re-prioritizing was a blessing for my entire family because it slowed down our Sundays and we had more time to hang out with each other.

And I saw God multiply my time on Saturday and Sunday.   On Saturdays I could get all of errands and chores done AND play in the pool, have friends over and have fun.  On Sundays I had time for God – worship and service in church, small group Bible studies and extra time to read and study God’s word which eventually led to this blog.

Closing the gates worked.

Thank you for your truth, Abba Father.