Time for grieving, part 5 of 6

The third time

Have you ever gone to a movie and been totally disgusted or bored out of your mind, and you actually stood up and walked out? I have. More than once. Afterwards, I felt irritated that I hadn’t done my homework better before saying Yes to the bad movie, because it wasted not only my time but my money. Since those walk-outs, I found my favorite movie review website: Christian Spotlight. I highly recommend it.

We’ve all heard the expression “Time is money and money is time.” To me, that expression acknowledges that both time and money are things that we spend, and it obviously takes time and effort to earn money. We’ll talk a little more about spending later in this post. I’ll leave you in suspense about what kind of spending I’m talking about.

Take time
Let’s think of this third and final aspect of time—as it relates to grieving—like this: I must take time to grieve. In other words, watching the hours and days and weeks and months and years go by will not eliminate my need to grieve. Time alone, without any effort on my part, will not heal all wounds. It may help my emotional wounds get buried deeper in The Land of Denial, but that is not what healing is about. That’s called ignoring, not healing. Or you can call it denial, not doing the work of grieving.

The flat tire
Grief expert Liz Taylor does a wonderful exercise in her grief group to illustrate this truth: Time does NOT heal all wounds. Liz asks her group, “How many of you have had a flat tire?” All hands are raised. Then she asks, “How many of you pull up a chair and sit by the tire and wait for the tire to heal—to fill back up?” The group agrees that sitting and waiting would be ridiculous. She explains that this illustration is what grief is. It’s not going to heal itself. The group talks through all the many steps required to change a flat tire. Liz tells us: “I may be 20 years away from the event. It may not overwhelm me when I think of it, but it is still there.” Why is it still there? Because, in Liz’s words, “I haven’t processed anything.”

My friend Summer and I talked about this aspect of grieving the most during our interview. Her advice?

“Take time to grieve.”

This aspect of time—taking the time to grieve—is what I meant in part 3 of this post when I wrote, “No one else can do the work of grieving for you.”

In order to take time to grieve, we have to reduce the clutter in our days. I’m not talking about the extra do-dads on the coffee table. I’m talking about Time Clutter.

If you spend time on social media, that is Time Clutter. If you spend time watching television, that is Time Clutter. If you spend time playing video games, that is Time Clutter. If you spend time reading trash novels, that is Time Clutter. If you spend time reading hobby, home, fashion and/or gossip magazines, that is Time Clutter. If you spend time yakking on the phone just to pass the time, that is Time Clutter.

Spending time
Why did I describe each of these Time Clutter options with the opening phrase If you spend time…? Because time is one of your greatest resources—second only to the power of the Holy Spirit. It is something you spend. It isn’t something that passes by.

Time is a valuable resource that you spend.
It is the embodiment of every choice you make.
Spend and invest your time wisely.

Why did I say that time is “the embodiment of every choice you make”? Read the definition of embody from Dictionary.com. The first phrase of that definition states: “to give a concrete form to.” Our time displays our choices. To sit or to stand. To come or to go. To speak or to remain silent. All of the activities under heaven described in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (quoted in part 4 of this post) are demonstrated by how we spend our time.

Our character and our priorities
are revealed—to others, if not to ourselves—
by how we spend our time.

Let’s close our eyes and reflect on what character and priorities we’ve revealed by how we’ve been spending our time…. Take out your journal and write about these truths—and what they tell you about yourself.

Being intentional: peace on, noise off
After my divorce many years ago, I asked God to show me what I needed to change so I’d be deserving of the kind of husband I was seeking. I intentionally controlled the media I allowed into my mind and my life. My ex-husband took the big TV when he moved out and I didn’t buy a replacement TV. I spent more than a year with no television watching. I listened to instrumental or Christian music. I prayed a lot. I read quality books that helped me reflect on who I was, the choices I’d made, and who I desired to be moving forward. And it was an incredibly fruitful time, spiritually-speaking. Very, very fruitful.

Consider the things you can do to turn off the noise and turn on the peace.

Quality books: On            Facebook: Off
Prayer time: On                TV time: Off
Peaceful music: On           Loud/angry/pop/rock & roll music: Off

According to a June 2017 news release from the U.S. Department of Labor, people from 15 to 44 years of age in the United States watched an average of two hours of television per day on weekdays (and more on weekends) in 2016. How much could you accomplish in 14 hours per week? That means around 60 hours per month.

How much healing could you do in 728 hours in one year?

My separation and divorce took place in 1997. At that time, I watched less television than the two-hour daily average quoted above, but I wasted time yakking on the phone, and with just general loafing around. So let’s go ahead and call it two hours per day of “entertainment” and/or goofing off.

Can you start to grasp what I meant when I described how spiritually fruitful my Year Without Television was? I was living intentionally—with a focus on emotional and spiritual healing. Seven hundred and twenty-eight hours of healing in one year. Wow.

And that was a long time before the social media boom.

Social media
According to the Nielsen Social Media Report released in January, adults age 18 and older spend an average of 5.5 hours per week on social media out of their 25 hours per week spent on all types of media. I hope your eyes are bugging out of your head, because mine sure are.

Media totals: 108+ hours per month or 1,300 hours per year
Social media totals: almost 24 hours per month or 286 hours per year

I don’t need to tell you the correlation between social media use and divorce, do I? We all probably know someone whose marriage ended due to infidelity that began with Facebook friending. When a marriage is in trouble, it isn’t time to go shopping for a replacement. It’s time to turn off the distractions—like Facebook and Twitter—and get help.

I’m not on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Some people would consider me uncool or boring. I’m okay with that.

Knowing what’s going on: informed vs. distracted
Recently, our family and the rest of our Life Group (i.e., Sunday school class) enjoyed a fun evening at Ann and Michael’s house. We call it Game Night, but there’s plenty of eating going on—believe you me. One of the guys walked into the dining room with his plate. When he saw all the ladies sitting in there, he said “I can read a map,” and boogied to the men’s table by the kitchen.

During our Ladies Table Gab-fest, one of the gals—I’ll call her Cheryl—was talking about watching the news and reading news magazines. I said, “I don’t watch the news.” She asked me, “Don’t you want to know what’s going on in the world?” My reply? “I don’t need to know that.” Stunned silence (and a subtle snicker from the other end of the table).

Let’s unpack that little encounter. You might call this section Frankie Ann Gets Up On A Soap Box. A number of writers have documented the Fear Factor involved in so-called “news” reporting and its impact on people’s thinking and living. I’m going to lay that obvious problem aside and focus on something even more important.

Ineffective or focused?
If “knowing what’s going on in the world” via public news sources was essential for effective Christian living, Jesus would have been born after the invention of the printing press. As it stands, he wasn’t. Was Jesus bored? Was he ineffective because he wasn’t focusing on what was “going on in the world” (i.e., across the world from where he was)? To the contrary; he’s the only human being—because he was God incarnate—who never wasted a moment doing anything lazy, foolish, wrong or outside his father’s will—his father being Almighty God, the Creator.

Purposeful and on-task
When you read the gospels, you learn very quickly that Jesus was busy. He wasn’t loafing around. He ate, he slept, he prayed, he preached, he changed people’s lives and he changed the world. He taught people one-on-one, in small groups and in very large groups. He walked from town to town. He healed people. Lots of people. Everywhere he went and everything he said and did was purposeful.

Jesus focused on the people who were right in front of him.

He is our role model for living.

Why would I spend time every day reading or listening to what’s happening across town, across my state, across my country or across the world from me while ignoring more important things—like the people across the table from me? It’s not that I don’t care about humanity. I do. If I didn’t care about humanity, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. God will let me know what he wants me to do, regardless of my well-controlled media intake. I hear about current events during conversation, during our remarkable pastor’s sermons, etc.

The high cost of being “in the know”
Let’s get down to business and do the math. If I were to spend one hour per day reading or watching “news”—also known as institutionalized gossip, as my Brandon calls it—I’d be choosing to spend 365 hours per year to “know what’s going on in the world.” That means that I’d spend more than 15 days of my year paying attention to what’s happening to people I will never meet, while simultaneously ignoring the other people in the room, the people I actually know and the people I could have known—if I weren’t so busy being “in the know.” Know what I mean? In 10 years of spending only one hour per day to get my news fix, I’d lose 150 days of my life—which means more than 21 weeks—and I’d have nothing to show for it. Nothing whatsoever, except for less sleep, more anxiety and perhaps more prescription medications to pay for and ingest. Please drink that in, Peaceful Readers—the high cost of being “in the know.”

You can call it being informed. I call it Time Clutter or wasting time. If information about certain aspects of current events is essential for your chosen career, I get that. For the vast majority of us, that is not the case.

Time = Life. Let’s spend ours wisely.

*Clunk!* Oops. That was me tripping as I stepped off My Big, Fat Soap Box.

Think of the decisions you’ll be making about Time Clutter like a master mechanic would think of fine-tuning a car.

Examples of Time Clutter
Viewing/posting on social media
Watching television
Playing video games
Reading news or fluff or trash
Yakking on the phone

What Time Clutter activities will you eliminate in the coming year (or years) in order to invest your time—your life—in both The Healing Journey and in doing the work that God would have you to do? What unnecessary distractions will you eliminate in order to invest yourself in The Season of Grieving? Get out your journal and take the time to reflect on these things and to make some life-changing decisions for this season of your life, and—even better—for the rest of your life.

Perception and reality
The reason why we went through the Time Clutter and Fine-tuning exercises is because some people will complain that they don’t have time to add something to their lives—something like the work of grieving. Is that perception accurate? Is the I’m too busy perspective really true?

The reality is that most people have filled their lives with massive amounts of non-essentials—Time Clutter.

“Good things”
In addition to Time Clutter, many of us have filled our calendars with “good things”—various commitments to people, groups, activities and causes both inside and outside our family.

The first question we have to ask ourselves about each monthly time commitment is this: Does this choice enrich both me and my family? The second question is this: Am I participating in this activity/commitment at the right time—for me and for my family? If the answer isn’t an enthusiastic Yes! to both of those questions, the time-drainer at hand must be re-thought and dealt with responsibly.

The people you spend time with during this season will have a profound impact on you. Choose your friends wisely.

Stress-inducing choices
If certain relatives, friends or acquaintances tend to add stress to your life, this would be a good time to limit your contact with them. Do not spend time with complainers or with people who love drama and chaos. You don’t need that—generally-speaking—and certainly not during The Season of Grieving.

Good choices
Choose friends who are strong in their faith, and display the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. If that doesn’t sound like any of your friends, ask yourself why. Why have you chosen friends who don’t possess those qualities? Why have they chosen you? Are there things in your life that need to change? Pray to God and ask him to show you what you need to change. Ask him to bring you a friend who is strong in faith, and displays the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Choose friends who speak the truth in love—people you would describe as wise. Choose friends who are strong in the qualities you’d like to possess—qualities that will make you a better person.

I think the “Peace: On, Noise: Off” concept summarizes this post. Time Clutter reminds me of static on a radio station. It’s a waste of time. That goes for other choices we need to rethink, cut or replace with something better.

Keeping our focus on our destination—Peace—makes it easier to free up time to do the work of grieving. Get out your virtual scissors and do some Clutter Cutting.

Coming next: In the final part of this six-part post, you’ll read about many things you can do to move forward in The Season of Grieving.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Luke 10:38-42

Song for Healing: “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz

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