Just because a phone rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it.
Sounds simple in theory, but it is more difficult in practice. We have become a lot like Pavlov’s dogs. Ivan Pavlov produced a conditioned reflex in his experiment with dogs. At feeding time, he would ring a bell. The dogs soon associated the ringing of the bell with dinner. In time, he could ring the bell and the dogs’ mouths would begin to water before food was present. Likewise, the telephone companies have trained us to answer the phone when it rings. Now that we have cell phones, we don’t even have to get up to answer it because they are usually in our pocket or hanging on our waist bands. (Don’t even get me started on people answering their cell phones at inappropriate times! That would be another article all on its own!)
My husband was the one who showed me that I didn’t have to jump every time the phone rang. He explained to me that’s why we have Caller ID and an answering machine. You could look to see who is calling and then decide if you want to answer it. However, this may still require getting up at the sound of the phone ringing. His preference is to let the machine do its job and answer the phone. If he hears the person leaving the message and wants or needs to talk to them, then he can pick up the call. Or you can call them back at your convenience. This approach has served us well. We can get more work done and I rarely, if ever, have to speak with a telemarketer.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
It’s not that we don’t want to talk to people. We love keeping in touch with friends and family. All of our family live many hours away, so the phone and internet are the ways we keep in touch between visits. But it can be hard to get any work done if you are on the phone all the time. On television shows, you hear the boss say to the assistant, “Hold all my calls.” When you are working on something that requires your focus and attention, interruptions will drive you crazy and impede productivity. A friend of mine was lamenting this problem on Facebook recently. Her status said that her day had been hijacked by others. My comment to her was that those people are time bandits.
We have a lot of time bandits in our lives. In addition to the telephone, we can add the television, the internet, video games, etc. These things are not inherently bad – I love all of them. It’s the way we use them that can steal away our time. There are many times when I know that I should be reading and studying my Bible or preparing a Sunday school lesson. Yet I will sit on the couch and watch television. There are maybe half a dozen shows that I really like (Jeopardy! – please don’t call me between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.) and make an effort to watch. But probably 80-90 percent of my television watching is just because it is on. I could be doing so much more with that time, but I allow it to be stolen away from me. With things like TiVo and DVRs, we can record the programming we want to see and watch them later. You can also find many programs on the internet. But often the television is like Pavlov’s ringing bell – if it is turned on, we are drawn to watch it.
I went by the field of the lazy man,
And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding;
And there it was, all overgrown with thorns;
Its surface was covered with nettles;
Its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw it, I considered it well;
I looked on it and received instruction:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest;
So shall your poverty come like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
Time bandits steal our time with God and with family. They can hinder our productivity and our ability to do the things that God has called us to do. But they only succeed because we allow it. We are not Pavlov’s dogs. We can overcome our conditioned reflexes. Really they are just bad habits that we can break. We know that if we want a closer relationship with God, we have to set aside time for reading and studying our Bible and a time for prayer. We also have to go to work every day and spend time with our family. There are a lot of demands for our time, so we have to use it wisely. It takes discipline and willpower. If we put the things of God first, then He will add to it. You may even find that when you do, you have more time in your day. After all, He made the sun stand still for Joshua. But you have to put the Lord first. Let Him plan your days, because He certainly has a plan for your life. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Don’t allow anyone or anything to steal that away from you.