YOU can buy a clock that is accurate to millionths of a second, but it cannot give you more time. Everyone has 24  hours each day, neither more nor less. But there are some days when we seem to cram a week into a day, and others when we say, ‘I  have nothing to show for it’.

Marriage’s portmanteau

When we commence our marriage journey, our portmanteau of time usually  seems able to contain all our activities  quite comfortably, and there is often  room to spare. It is almost like when we  have our first diary and find it difficult to  find enough to say each day. Sooner or  later something uncomfortable happens.  The days are just as long—or short—but  there seems to be too  much to fit in. We try  to get rid of this feeling  by working harder  or longer or more efficiently.  But something  is always snapping at  our heels. What’s the  problem?

Before marriage, life’s inescapable responsibilities are, for most of us, few in  number and most of  them are centred around  self—my education,  first job, hobbies and  holidays. Of course, there is discipleship and  there are my family and  friends. These things  do not press too hard, except at certain times  which in any case come and go. When we  marry we have to blend ‘my’ with ‘our’. This  is not too difficult and, in any case, love has a way of making the adjustments pleasurable.  Time’s highway seems reasonably smooth and the traffic is not too heavy. It is not  long, however, before we discover that the  things that ‘have to be done’ become more  numerous, and we sometimes find this  irksome. We feel we are losing our freedom.  We are being dictated to by life’s demands  and our room for manoeuvre seems to  shrink—but we are young and can take it.  Yet there is more!

Just when we think we have everything  under control, another of the unavoidable  ‘must do’s’ arrives—a baby, car repair,  change of job, bad health. It looks as though  something else must  go but, maybe, we can  manage if the daily readings, ecclesial commitments, visits  to the in-laws and the  like are pushed aside.  Though we never put it  in those terms, it simply  happens.

The pace of life has  moved up a couple of  notches and we breathe  once again. But we are  moving towards the  danger zone. Unpleasant  stress becomes a part of  life and tell-tale signs  appear in the family—  shortness of temper,  neglect of each other  in various ways, the  children are shortchanged and they begin to show it.

Get off my back!

Unless we are very skilful or fortunate, the marriage itself is bruised. It is not that we  love each other any the less, but there is little time, such as we used to enjoy, to sit  down close to each other and simply talk.  Even the most intimate side of marriage  suffers because one of us is too tired—  something undreamt of a little while ago.  Prayer may have become perfunctory or seemingly irrelevant.

Christ is not truly real to us, though we would deny that, if confronted. Instead of  finding strength and joy in the breaking of  bread, we may arrive at the last minute, lose  our concentration or feel that either it or  we are useless. We may even stay at home  ‘because we have so much to do’.

What to do?

It is time to take stock. We must make time  for this or real disaster may strike us.

A doctor dealing with casualties in the  accident and emergency unit may well have  to act quickly, but when he does he depends  on his training, experience and diagnostic  skill. Immediate priorities must come first:  other things come later. Imagine you are  the doctor and ask the following questions:

  1. Were we right to put prayer and the Bible on the back burner just when we needed them most?
  2. Are we trying to solve our problems without Christ?
  3. Are we, as someone has said, ‘very busy about unimportant things’?
  4. Is not the most important thing to seek God and His righteousness? Are we trying to fool ourselves by denying this?
  5. Are we pursuing career(s) as our first option?
  6. Have we friends, social engagements, leisure pursuits and hobbies which are eating up our time—and that wrongly?
  7. Have we made ecclesial commitments beyond what is right for family life?
  8. Are we afraid to take stock? If so, ask your dearest friends to do it for you and listen carefully to what they say.
  9. Are we eating out, taking holidays abroad and otherwise ‘enjoying ourselves’ out of proportion to the time we have available  and do we in these things take spiritual  things into consideration?
  10. Are we constantly ‘improving’ our home but not ourselves?
  11. Are we caring more about our children’s education and health than about their eternal welfare?  12. Are the family burdens properly shared  out amongst all of the family?
  12. Despite all we say, is television time pushing Christ out of the room and tainting us with its accepted evils? Are  we destroying true family conversation  and proper family activities? Do we  read the Bible as a family?

So?

When Paul and his friends were in the  thralls of the great storm, the scripture says  that the ship’s crew threw the cargo and,  then, the ship’s tackle overboard. They were  desperate measures for a desperate time. But  Paul said: “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer:  for I believe God, that it shall be even as it  was told me.”

(Acts 27:25)

He was at peace in a world of nature’s fury.  We need to adopt similar measures when our  ship is overwhelmed by the storms of life.  There are things to be thrown overboard,  things that are imperilling our salvation. And,  we must remember that our ship is Christ and  we can reach the shore intact if we trust him  implicitly and him alone. Don’t despair; pray,  read, keep with Christ’s crew, and jettison  dangerous cargo.