I feel guilty about my free time

Jul 17, 2019 by

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When I was bemoaning my singleness once, a wise person told me, “You made your choices.” At first, I wanted to complain, “But I didn’t know the consequences of those choices! I didn’t know that college years are when you have the most marriage opportunities. I thought I’d have plenty of time later.”

But do I regret my choices? Not really. Would I give up all the experiences, friendships and purpose I’ve found as a result of those choices? Probably not.

When people comment on all the free time I have as a single, I used to downplay it. I try to be extra supportive of parents because I think the sacrifices they make are extremely important, so I tried not to rub my free time in their face. But eventually I came to the conclusion that really we should all be celebrating with each other: I would love to be married and have a family, but instead of bemoaning what I don’t have, I will enjoy the advantages such as time, flexibility and freedom. Similarly, the young mom at times may wish she could fly to Japan or go to the beach but her child is napping or her daughter needs the money for braces. Yet, I don’t think she’d really want to trade the joys of family for a vacation. The contractor who envies my summers off probably would not want to deal with a lower salary and rude, entitled students. We all make our choices.

People say you adjust to your paycheck. If you get a raise, somehow you tend to have just as little left over at the end of the month.

In addition, we adjust to our problems. We worry about our pets. Then, we get kids and suddenly the pets aren’t quite as important. Or in my case, I stressed about car problems until I bought a house. Now I worry about house problems.

Just as we always find something to worry about whatever the difficulty level, and just as we never have enough money whatever our salary — similarly we never feel we have enough time for all our priorities however few our responsibilities are.

Despite not having a family and having my summers off, I’m just as behind as the next person. I’ve yet to make the time to wash my windows in my eight years of living on my own. Despite having a robovac, my house isn’t even vacuumed because I haven’t taken the five minutes to dump the dust and two minutes to program it! And just like everyone else I have to consider my priorities and say “no” far more than I would like to.

And I prioritize the wrong thing a lot. I’m extremely selfish. I lack passion. I’m complacent and indifferent. I choose social media, reading, shows over prayer constantly. I rush through my personal devotions often. I avoid talking about God because I don’t feel like looking stupid.

But I do recognize that time is something I need to steward. The problem is what I’ve chosen to do with the majority of my free time (reading, writing and Bible study) doesn’t always have clear results. It’s mind-stretching and spirit-improving — but not obvious. Sure, writing perhaps has some evidence — but it is a long, hard process for most likely a small audience.

I realize it’s crazy to turn a blessing into a feeling of guilt. I’m also learning it takes a crazy amount of confidence to write. So that’s why I found 1 Peter 4:10-11 so freeing:

“Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”

I see here that I should 1) serve based on my gifting and 2) serve with God’s strength.

At times I find myself naturally praying about some question that has me stymied in my writing, and then I stop and catch myself and ask God, “Do You care? Perhaps this writing project is just me doing my thing and perhaps I shouldn’t presume to ask for Your help.”

But “whatever I do . . . [should be] done for the Lord” (Col. 3:23).

Tabitha Driver is a Mennonite who loves glimpsing God’s goodness on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She blogs at Life is a Metaphor, where this post first appeared.

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