The sorrow in my nine year old daughter’s voice was unmistakable. “My days are disappearing so quickly. Sometimes I’m doing something I really enjoy and then the day ends and I have to stop.” She sighed softly. “Or else I have to pack up and rush off to do something else.”
“Oh darling,” I thought. “If only you knew.”
Her little life looked so simple and uncomplicated from my perspective. I smiled at her innocence. Then I had to ask myself, “How am I going with that?”
My life is less hectic than it used to be. Our oldest son has moved out of home, our second is in his final year of schooling, one daughter is mid-teens and the other is partway through primary school. I love this season of parenting, when some of our children are just discovering their unique talents and others are making major career decisions. It’s a time when we as parents can step back a little and watch their lives unfold. A time when we are freed up to pursue other interests as well as family life. Still, I’m finding time slips through my fingers faster than I’d wish.
Sometimes this is beyond my control. The computer is slow. Children need rides. Traffic is heavy. The guinea pigs have a medical emergency.
Sometimes I make choices which throw valuable time away.
There are two little words which lurk in the shadows of my vocab and jump out when my guard is down – ‘I’ll just.’
‘I’ll just’ have a quick look at facebook.
‘I’ll just’ send this message.
‘I’ll just’ check what’s on tv.
‘I’ll just’ take a peek at how the next chapter begins.
The ‘I’ll just’ thought is usually an impulse thought, not something I’d planned to do. The idea behind it is often a good one and following it seems to make sense. Until it leads me down a path of regret.
My time with God gets squashed into the few remaining minutes before breakfast.
My child falls asleep before I kiss them goodnight.
I stay up way too late and struggle with tiredness (and grumpiness) all the following day.
My mind is so full of all I’ve read and seen, I have trouble focusing when people speak to me.
Those impulsive choices steal moments I’ll never recapture. I apologise and forgive myself. But that doesn’t rewind time and give me the chance to relive those moments differently. If I follow the ‘I’ll just’ impulse too often, relationships can suffer to the point where the damage can be difficult to repair.
I have to ask myself, “Is it really worth it? Can it wait?”
More than a decade ago, I heard a wise father speak to a group of eager listeners. “Good parenting doesn’t happen by chance,” he said. “You have to be intentional.” Now I’m applying the same principle to all of life.
I need to live intentionally.
This means identifying my priorities and ensuring they take first place in the way I live, every day. Sometimes that means ignoring the ‘I’ll just’ thoughts which come. Other times it means putting them off until a more suitable time.
Two more little words are working their way into my mental vocab now.
‘I will’. Words of intention and purpose.
I trust, with practice, they’ll overpower the ‘I justs’ and become the rudder that keeps me on course.