All That Wasted Time…

Several weeks ago I resumed praying the St. Joseph the Worker prayer on a daily basis for the first time in years. The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit calls us to prayer, and this was definitely a Holy Spirit inspiration. For the past month, time and again, I’ve been convicted by a few brief lines near the end of this prayer:

…having always before me the hour of death and the accounting I must then render of time ill spent, of talents unemployed, of good undone, and of my empty pride in success, which is so fatal to the work of God.

Prayer to St. Joseph the Worker

I don’t know about you, but I waste a lot of time. Oh, I get done whatever needs to get done, but that’s a low bar. The real question is, how do I spend the bulk of the time given to me?

I’m working on my old ’66 Ford pickup this summer. Three years ago it was a daily driver, until it conked out along the roadside between Elk River and home. Since then, it has sat in our driveway, in various stages of disassembly, while I tried to track down the problem and fix it. I’ve had the diagnosis and the parts for two years or so, and finally got it running again last month.

What took so long? First of all, there was the anticipation that the job was harder and the problem likely bigger than I understood. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the job that I failed to start it!

But more than that, I chose not to do it, because I had other projects, other priorities, other things I’d rather do. For example, in the past three years:

  • I spent numerous hours researching potential fixes to a variety of other household and vehicle problems, then researching the right parts and tools needed to achieve the repairs—mostly without actually turning a wrench.
  • I brewed roughly 30 gallons of beer.
  • I watched all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H, and all 9 seasons of Last Man Standing.
  • I rewatched most of the Marvel movies and all the Star Wars movies with my children.
  • I read countless COVID and political news and opinion pieces, few of which changed my thinking and none of which changed my vote or my day-to-day life.

The old pickup is running now, but still not on the road because new problems have developed while it sat idle in the driveway. Once again, I’ve spent dozens of hours on research and hundreds of dollars on parts and tools. The time has come to get to work!

And the same applies to spiritual priorities. For years I spoke of getting involved with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, but did nothing but “look into it” and “pray about it.” It seemed like a big commitment, but now I’m doing it. I thought I was so busy, but in the past few weeks I’ve been called on to visit three families in need in the area and have easily found the time to do it.

When we’re not intentional about how we’re spending our time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed—and the Enemy uses that to lure us away from the prayer and the sacraments. Just last week, I texted my confessor to postpone our monthly Reconciliation meeting because I was “in the middle of a project.” He wisely ignored my text for three hours, thinking perhaps I would see my way clear after all. He was right. I spent a little time in prayer, my head cleared, and I saw that, in all my busy-ness, God’s grace was what I needed most of all.

Don’t get me wrong: Sometimes we need to take a little time, to discern, to research, to figure things out—and sometimes we need a little rest and relaxation! But as I’ve shared before, we cannot save time; we can only spend it—wisely or foolishly. And in the end, we’ll need to answer for both. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the reminder!

This post appeared in the Sunday, June 26, bulletin of St. Michael Catholic Church.

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