When our kids are young, we all want them to learn how to tell time. We spend lots of energy making sure they can read a clock, down to the minute. We are happy when they say “Look! It’s 10- two hours until lunch!” But how often do we teach them the most important things about time? I know I often fail to say things like “Only two hours? How are we going to spend that the best way we can?”
Here are a few things that we might want to pass on.
1. Time is fleeting.
There are no second chances when it comes to time. Today you are so old, and you cannot go backwards and be five all over again, if you so desire. Each day you go to bed cannot be re-lived.
Though it might seem like some days drag on, or like the hours between now and when your friend is coming over- really do last forever, the truth is time plods along at its own relentless pace, mindful of no man.
There is a story about king Canute the Second, who lived during the 11th century in England. All of his subjects used to tell him that he was amazing, powerful, and could move the earth! The ocean, they claimed, would even stop at his command. The king knew that he was merely a man, and grew weary of all of this talk. So one day, as he went along the beach with his noblemen, and he heard this talk about him stopping the ocean, he decided to teach them a lesson.
He commanded the men to set down his chair at the edge of the ocean. The men did not dare disobey. Before long, the waves started climbing the shore. The king commanded the waves to stop.
“He waited for a moment, quietly, and a tiny wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet. “How dare you!” Canute shouted. “Ocean, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!”
And in answer, another wave swept forward and curled around the king’s feet. The tide came in, just as it always did. The water rose higher and higher. It came up around the king’s chair, and wet not only his feet, but also his robe. His officers stood about him alarmed, and wondering whether he was not mad.
“Well, my friends,” Canute said, “it seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. Perhaps you have learned something today. Perhaps now you will remember there is only one King who is all-powerful, and it is he who rules the sea and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. I suggest you reserve your praises for Him.””
So it is with our days. Time waits for no man. No king can control it, no person can persuade it to wait, or plead for it to return. When you are young, whether the days and years feel like they are flying by or dragging on, the truth is they plod on day in day out, waiting for no one to catch up. If we wish to catch time, the only way to do it is to use it well while its here.
2. Time is your most valuable commodity.
Of all the things you will ever own, time is possibly the most valuable. It cannot be bought or sold, and it cannot be stored up and saved for later. It doesn’t cost anything, and it is often wasted like it doesn’t matter.
We all get the same number of hours in each day, to use as we see fit. It would be like your mom and dad giving each child $100 to use just for today. At the end of the day, it would be gone. How would you use that money? If you buried it under your pillow? Gone in the morning. You could spend it on toys- but toys break some day. You could use it to feed people who are in need of food, or spend it on tools to build something with that would last you for years.
But the lesson here is that your time is even more valuable than that money. You can spend it on play, on serving and blessing people, on building and learning. You could spend it hidden under your pillow. No matter how its spent, tomorrow it will be gone.
3. Every day, you use up your time. Make a plan and use it well.
Play is a valuable part of your day. It adds more than just joy to your life- it allows for creativity, relationship building, testing out new ideas and theories, and also gives your brain time to assimilate all that it has been learning.
Play is the garlic bread to your spaghetti, the gravy to your mashed potatoes, the dessert to your dinner. But just like a great meal needs many parts, so does your day.
You have been given today- hours that stretch out before you ready to turn into value or drift into the wind. How do you want it to be used?
Questions to ask and discuss:
- What pieces do you believe go into a good day?
- What would be the end result of using that set amount of money on the things listed above (hiding it under your pillow, toys, feeding people, tools). What other ways can you think of to spend that money? Why?
- How is our time like money?
- What do you think of that king? Was he wise or foolish? Why? What did he teach his men?
- When people learn these things about time, many start to plan their days out ahead of time. They will sit down with paper and say “OK. Today I want to make sure I talk to this person. And I want to learn this. And I want to spend time doing such and such.” They are listing out the ways they would like to spend this resource. If you made a plan for a good day, what would yours look like?
A quick note about the story: This is an excerpt from “King Canute on the Seashore” from the book of virtues. The Book of Virtues is a compilation of short moral stories. It is one of our favorite books, by far. I highly recommend that it makes a home on your shelf, if it doesn’t have one already.