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The Perplexing Problem of Time
By Ed Newman
 
It seems like every few years there’s a big stink made by politicians about the irresponsibility of Hollywood with regards to television content and its impact on America’s youth. Conservatives blast Hollywood for all the sexual innuendo and antifamily messages woven into a majority of today’s television shows. Liberals abhor the violence. (Forgive me this oversimplification.) Both sides miss the heart of the problem. The issue isn’t “what” kids are watching. The real concern ought to be that the kids are watching at all. I mean, there is so much more to do, so many tens of thousands of ways to use one’s time, to experience one’s world. Why waste a childhood by turning kids into mindless vegetating zombies?

My thirteen year old daughter Christina was recently startled to learn that the average American family watches 50 hours of television per week. She wasn¹t the only one flabbergasted by this statistic. What it says is that Americans are squandering immense amounts of time on meaningless activity, wasting opportunities to grow, to be creative, or to make a contribution to their communities.

Napoleon Bonaparte, perhaps the most brilliant general in history (and most-written-about human being of the 19th century) considered time to be the most valuable resource on earth. Napoleon¹s writings and sayings are peppered with comments about the importance of time. “I may lose a battle,” Napoleon said, “but I shall never lose a minute.” Strategy, he believed, was the art of making use of space and time. “Space we can recover, but time never,” he asserted.

Notable management consultant Peter Drucker devotes a whole chapter to the matter of time in his timeless bestseller The Effective Executive. Writes Drucker, “Time is a unique resource. The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back. Time is, therefore, always in exceedingly short supply.” (Sounds to me like Drucker was taking notes from Napoleon.)

Because lost time can never be recovered, in order to be effective it is a prerequisite for business managers to learn how to manage their time. Likewise, as teachers, parents, and managers of households, we need to find ways to get a handle on the use of our time.

Television is only one of the great time robbers. There are many other kinds of activities that conspire to steal out time. The belief that we must participate in every kind of activity and attend every event leads us to many hours of distraction from our home schooling goals. Likewise the inability to say “no” can become a problem until we realize that time is finite. It is impossible to give ourselves to every good cause.

In Bible school, while preparing for missionary work, I heard a saying that has proved invaluable over the years: “The need is not the call.” Truth is, there is an endless amount of need in our broken world. Our lives must be defined not by need, but by objectives, by purposes. If an activity does not contribute to our ultimate aims, then we must learn how to say no. As homeschooling parents, our primary purpose must be to prepare our children for the lifetime that is ahead of them. This is truly a high calling, and worthy of our time. Fame and fortune are far less worthy than the hours we devote to training our sons and daughters.

If you¹re feeling hopeless about the prospects of getting a handle on your time, know this: Time use does improve with practice. But, as Drucker quickly reminds us, “Only constant efforts at managing time can prevent us from drifting.”

MARY: WANT THIS OUT?

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, stressed that we must be very careful how we live, “not as unwise but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15,16) That is, we must resist the temptation to be swept up in the currents that would draw us away from living purposefully in a confused and broken world. As parents, as humans created in the image of God, we have been called to live with direction. The empty endless filling of hours with meaningless diversions is not an option for those whose hearts and minds have been awakened.

We live in a culture that takes time for granted. When we were young time seemed immensely abundant. But as we grow older, and wiser, we recognize the finiteness of these few short years of our existence. Growing up means recognizing that we have little time to waste. Squandered years are lost years. The time to grab hold of this truth is now, today. Tomorrow is too uncertain.

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Ed Newman and his wife are homeschooling parents living in Minnesota. Ed is also a professional writer, with much to say about homeschooling.

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