Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
Many people have a negative thought when they think of the words “rules” or “boundaries.” Rules and boundaries are there to help us feel freer. Where there are no rules or boundaries, there is no freedom. As we have discussed previously, if one sets up a boundary of respect, where it is safe to be honest without being judged, then there is freedom to discuss things in an open and genuine way. Another example of rules and boundaries are the laws we have that keep us free. There is a law that says someone can’t come into your house and steal your stuff while you are gone. If we didn’t have that law, none of us would feel free to leave our homes. Boundaries and rules are good things.
Today’s boundary relates to time. Time is our most precious commodity because we can’t get any more of it. One can work an additional job and make more money if needed. One can take a class and get more adept at a certain skill. But there is nothing we can do in order to get more time or recover time that has been lost. Time is our most precious commodity because there is only a finite amount of it.
I once heard someone say that there is a reason the day has 24 hours. We are supposed to spend 8 of them resting, 8 of them working, and 8 of them on other things, like family, chores, hobbies, relaxation and spirituality. In 21st century America, we’ve tinkered with this equation. Most adults get less than 8 hours of sleep a night. Most working adults work more than 8 hours a day and more than 40 hours a week. Chores are chores. Things like shopping, cooking and cleaning have to be done. So this pushes family, hobbies, relaxation and spirituality to a back burner.
One of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. This was not a suggestion, but a commandment, to preserve one day of the week for the Lord and for rest. Virtually none of us follow this. We may get to church on Sunday, but after church it is back to chores, cooking and shopping, not necessarily family or rest. As people are required to work more and more, work creeps into Sunday, even if it is working from home. Where Sundays (mornings at least) were respected as a day for worship and family, now extra-curricular activities like sports, or birthday parties, are unashamedly placed on Sunday mornings.
Sports have become way more serious too. When I was a child, we played one sport for a season, and then did a different sport, or didn’t do any sport at all at certain times of the year. Now, it seems that any commitment to play a sport is a year-round commitment. A local high school gives players ONE WEEK off in summer for family vacation if they are on the football team. It is known that if one is going to play a sport, that sport has to be the priority. Of course, the irony is that for all this investment in sports, about 1-2% of people who play sports actually will play them in college, and of those who play in college, 1-2% will play professionally, and of those who play professionally, only 1-2% will really “make it big” in their sport. So for all the emphasis we place on sports, they won’t have a significant impact on most adult lives, certainly not more than family or Christ.
Many people are able to work from home, even more so after the Covid-19 pandemic. I don’t mean that they don’t have to go into work at an office, but most people do some of their work from a computer, like a teacher doing lesson plans, or a priest writing sermons, or a lawyer preparing for trial, or a doctor doing charting. And because we have computers with us all the time, we get work in all the time. It never shuts off.
The final issue is with the phones. They never go off either. Everyone knows everyone has a cell phone, and everyone knows that everyone has their cell phone with them at all times. When I was a child, people only had phones at home and work. If someone wasn’t home, we left a message on their phone and they got back to us later or the next day. Now we expect instant answers to calls, emails and texts, and we don’t allow an excuse that “I am not available” because now with the mobile phone, everyone theoretically is always available.
This is where some rules and boundaries are needed. We need to set boundaries as it relates to time. Some boundaries are easier to set than others. But here are some thoughts. I know on many nights, I stay up later than I need to doing mindless things like watching television. We need to be more vigilant on making sure we sleep enough.
Many of us do not work as “smart” as we should. We work hard, even long hours, but could probably be more efficient. Some of us don’t know how to be truly “off.” We are either addicted to our phones, or our jobs, or feel guilty if we are not in perpetual motion. Make some things about your time sacred, such as not having a phone at the table when you are eating. Make that time sacred with your family.
Each of us has a choice to make when it comes to worship on Sundays. We’ve made it known that we don’t go to birthday parties that are on Sunday mornings. On a very rare occasion, we will let our son go to a swim meet on Sundays, but we find ways for him to “make up” for not going to church such as going to a weekday service. Again, not because worship is about “checking a box” but because we want to impress on him that worship is an important part of being a Christian, indeed it is one of the great joys about being a Christian.
Keep sports in perspective. Even if your child is very good at sports, the odds are that he or she will not play in college or professionally. And even if they have the talent to play in college or play professionally, everyone is always one injury away from not being able to play sports. Don’t let them put all of their future “eggs” into the sports basket. That’s not smart for anyone.
We also must recognize that while only a small percentage of people play sports, everyone will one day stand in front of Christ to give an accounting of their lives. This is a 100% certainty.
Fight for your time off. Whether that means fighting with a coach for a family vacation, or making sure you take your allotted vacation time and personal days.
As much as you can, don’t do your job after hours at home.
Finally, set some boundaries with your phone, email and social media. Be patient if someone doesn’t answer immediately, especially if it is at night or on the weekends. Try to keep work to work hours. And don’t feel guilty about taking a few hours away from the phone.
Lord, thank You for the gift of time, for the years of life that I have enjoyed, and for this very day, and this moment in time that I am offering this prayer to you. Please Lord, help me to be efficient with my time, to work smarter, to have wisdom and clarity when I’m working and help me to have the discipline to minimize distraction. Help me to balance my time between work, family, hobbies and rest. Most important, give me the discipline to give You the first of my time. Amen.
We all need to set boundaries when it comes to our time. As we read in Ecclesiastes 3, there is indeed a time for everything—a time to pray, a time to work, and a time to be off from work.