What do Bill Murray and Tom Cruise have in common? They’ve both starred in movies (Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow) where they must re-live the same day multiple times until they get it right.
Why does that theme resonate so deeply with us?
I think it’s because we want to come through by saying or doing the right thing – but usually misstep in the heat of the moment. We long for a do-over where we know what’s coming...and are ready.
Novelists are used to controlling the element of time in their stories – but it’s much harder in their own lives. And, let’s be honest, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done most days no matter how many chances we’re given. If only we could slow time. Or had 28 hours a day. If we could somehow get a little smarter or juggle everything a little better, perhaps we really could get it all done. Come through as the lover, the provider, the hero, the best-selling author.
What about your life as a writer? Do you feel you have enough time to spend on your novel? From the phrases most authors use, I’d say the answer is pretty clear. They refer to themselves as:
* buried in work
* fighting a deadline
* drowning in revisions
* running on empty
These phrases sound more like death than life. And it’s hard to write words of life when you – as creator – are burnt-out, worn-out, or stressed out.
Taming the To-Do List
In my early professional life, I relentlessly tried to tame my to-do list. It was my main focus. How good my day was depended largely on how much I got done.
But I never got it all done. Never was able to keep my incoming e-mails at zero or cross every item off my list. And any intrusion in my day was seen as an irritant because, well, it just put me further behind.
I was reviewing my new year’s resolutions with my father-in-law recently. It was clearly too aggressive. Each day was filled to the brim. He graciously let me finish going down the items and then said, “Son, I’m not sure you’ve left any room for God to show up in your day.”
His words went deep.
A few days later, I was telling my wife how overwhelmed I felt. She asked, “Do you really think God won’t give you enough time to get done what he’s called you to do?”
That question rocked my world.
If God gives us time to do all he’s called us to and yet I have a list of undone tasks, then I must be filling my day with a lot that isn’t from him.
After all, he doesn’t promise us time to do everything.
Just the things he’s called us to do.
If he’s called you to write stories, he will give you time to write them.
But everything on your list isn’t necessarily from God. What are you filling your days with that God never invited you to take on? What projects have you said “yes” to without ever asking if that was God’s desire? What are you continuing to do out of obligation or for validation or escapism? Rather than asking God for a rescue when you crash and burn from an overfull list, give him free reign over your time. Simply be about the Father’s business and let the rest go.
Authors are used to putting their characters through a non-stop pace of obstacles, adventure, love and loss. Page turners, by definition, have to keep things moving. Readers want books that are adrenaline-laced rollercoaster rides. But remember, the pace of a good novel isn’t the pace of a good life.
All the Time in the World
When we give God our days and follow his lead, we live in his abundance. To the Creator of time, there’s no such thing as a shortage of time. He never plays catch-up.
That’s why the psalmist says of God, “You’ve got all the time in the world – whether a thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you.” (The Message, Psalm 90:4).
It’s Satan who is stressed over a lack of time. “He’s wild and raging with anger; he hasn’t much time and he knows it.” (The Message, Revelation 12:12). God is cutting our enemy’s time short. The enemy may try to distract you or waste your time, but he can’t steal your time. He doesn’t control time.
So don’t buy the lie that you don’t have enough time. You have an abundance of time when you allow God to set your agenda.
Live a Wildly Unbalanced Life
One last thought about time.
The phrase “a balanced life” sounds so appealing. It plays to the illusion that we really can do it all / have it all if we just balance everything in our lives perfectly.
Unfortunately, it’s an illusion.
You can have a deep and satisfying family life.
You can be a workaholic.
You can live a life of simplicity.
You can let social media consume your day.
But you can’t balance the above four items, much less all your life. And why is balance the goal anyway?
Love God. Love others. That’s all that really matters.
So pursue those opportunities above all else.
Give your best to your best.
And just enough time to the other things that must be done.
You do have enough time for everything God calls you to.
But only if you’re willing to live a wildly unbalanced life.
Do that and you’ll never need to re-live your day endlessly like Bill Murray and Tom Cruise.
And don't forget the Oregon Christian Writers Conference
And don't forget the Oregon Christian Writers Conference
Allen Arnold loves the epic adventure God has set before him. From the mountains of Colorado, he leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian Publishing - overseeing the development of more than 500 novels as founder and Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction. He was awarded the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. But that doesn't really describe the man. Allen savors time with his family, craves the beach, drinks salsa by the glass, is hooked on the TV series "Once Upon a Time" and is passionate about helping storytellers write from an awakened heart.