My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. [1 John 3:18-20 MSG)]
It was well past midnight when I finally rolled into bed. Barely able to keep my eyes open, I reached over to read my evening’s meditation. How we choose to spend our time was the topic and the author wrote of the futility of building sandcastles that would be washed away in the tide. “It all may seem worthwhile, but in the end it’s worthless,” were his words. Since I’d just spent countless hours working on line to create a photo book for my mother-in-law, I stopped reading and moaned, “Oh Lord, was this project a sandcastle? Is the book not worthy of the hours I spent creating it?” I’d neglected my writing to finish this project and now the words I was reading filled me with self-reproach. Had I wasted precious time? I knew the book wouldn’t disappear with the tide but would it be appreciated? Perhaps it would be read and forgotten or maybe never even seen. After all, my mother-in-law is 100 years old and her clock is winding down. There was always the possibility that, by the time was book was printed and shipped, it would arrive after she departed! I started thinking of all the other more important or worthy things I could have done with those many hours.
Fortunately, I kept reading. The author then wrote of spending hours building real sandcastles with his children. Those sandcastles, even though they’d be gone in the morning, were more worthwhile than the sandcastles he built in other areas of his busy life. The time he spent at the beach, fully engaged with his children in their construction efforts, was time wisely used.
I remembered the old story of a little boy who gave his Peace Corps teacher a beautiful seashell. Since their village was 30 miles from the nearest seashore, she knew the boy had walked several days to bring her that shell. “You shouldn’t have traveled so far just to find a gift for me,” she told him. “The long walk is part of the gift!” was his response. Perhaps I didn’t need to spend as much time editing the pictures, designing layouts, placing the right embellishments on each page, or finding the perfect quotes, but they were all part of the long walk included in the gift.
Dark thoughts often come late at night, especially when we’re exhausted. I’d forgotten that we must always let love guide us. Granted, we should spend time furthering God’s kingdom but there’s more than one way to do that! Sometimes we further it by taking a long walk for someone. How we spend our time indicates what we treasure. Whether we’re building sandcastles with the kids or making photo books for the family, delivering meals to the ill or baking cookies for Sunday school, patching drywall in a Habitat house or constructing Lincoln log cabins with the grands, our time is a gift of love and that gift will last for eternity.
If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give. [George MacDonald]