There’s nothing quite like an empty weekend — plenty of free time and total agency in how to spend it. Maybe a few hours perusing a bookstore and then getting dessert? Maybe crossing a few to-dos off my list while watching TV? I could call a friend or read a book or take a walk. Or a nap.
How do I want to spend my time? That’s really what I’m asking. And that’s OK.
Or is it?
Me time, my time
I find it easy to think of the time outside of non-negotiable responsibilities as “my time.” That’s how I end up playing a game on my phone instead of writing this blog post. That’s how I fritter away an evening by binge-watching a TV show instead of working on my Bible study homework.
But if we’ve surrendered our hearts and lives and futures to Christ, doesn’t it follow that He also lays claim to our discretionary time? “The work assigned to me includes writing and speaking, forms of service often labeled ‘full-time Christian,’ but my service to God also includes housework and correspondence and being available to help family and friends do things that need doing,” Elisabeth Elliot wrote. “If my husband needs a haircut or a letter typed, I’m available.”
The 40-hour-work-week culture has conditioned us to mentally divide our time into work time and “free time.” But our calling to serve our Master isn’t limited to our vocation.
“If you’re thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you’re embarking on something which will take the whole of you,” C.S. Lewis wrote. It’s not far off from what Jesus himself said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
So back to my empty weekend. What do I do with my free time if I am a disciple of Christ?
A habit of doing good work
The leaders at my church just wrapped up a sermon series on the book of Titus. In the book’s three short chapters, Paul talks about “good works” four times. Not in an “earn your salvation by doing good works” or “make God like you more” way of seeing good works, but instead through a relational invitation to participate with God himself in important Kingdom business.
Paul reminds Titus that Jesus sanctifies us to make us “zealous for good works.” He tells Titus to be a model of good works and to insist that his congregants “be careful to devote themselves to good works ” and “learn to devote themselves to good works.”
Paul also talks to the Ephesians about good works. “For we are his workmanship,” he writes, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Got it, Paul. Good works. Like what? Are we talking random acts of kindness or doing a good deed for the day?
“The precept regards doing good in all kinds, and on every occasion that may offer … what may bring credit to religion in the world,” said commentator Matthew Henry. That lines up with what Paul says about walking in good works: The phrase denotes a pattern or lifestyle of doing good works.
Notice the strong language Paul uses here. He doesn’t just say to “do” good works. He says we are to be “zealous” for good works, to “learn to” and “be careful to devote” ourselves to good works and be a “model” of good works. He even says that God prepared our good works for us.
Doing good works — especially walking in a pattern of good works — takes time. My free time.
Single people, take note
Those of us who are single sometimes face the assumption that we are too self-focused. At times, we earn this criticism. Without a spouse and children, we typically have fewer people to factor into our plans. We often (though not always) have fewer responsibilities owed to fewer people. This makes it easier to focus on my needs, my wants, my plans. My time.
But take heart, single reader: It doesn’t have to be this way. We aren’t doomed to selfishness because of our relationship status. God prepared good works long ago for us, too. As we grow closer to Him and offer up our time and energy to His leading, we can shatter those assumptions. We, too, can be a “model of good works.”
Give God access to your calendar
God knows we need downtime and rest. And it isn’t necessarily wrong to play games on my phone or binge-watch a TV show. But is that my default? Have I prayed and sought what good work Jesus calls me to today?
What might that be, you ask? I have no idea. But isn’t that the fun of it? “Let us rest assured that God knows how to show His will to one who is willing to do it,” Elliot wrote. Our time — like everything else that we think of as ours — belongs to Christ. He will show us how He wants us to spend it.
Copyright 2023 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.