People Are The Big Rocks


When I was a kid, TV reruns came in the spring. This year, though I’ve decided to “rerun” a few favorite blog posts in the fall–this October to be exact. All of the posts have to do with how we treat people. Are we really heading the repeated Biblical instruction to be loving and kind? Here’s the first installment.

My life is always in flux. I never really know what the next day will bring. Truth be told, I’ve come to like it that way. Always, though, I try to guard my privacy, my quiet time, my writing time. Ah, notice the overuse of “I” and “my.” Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” The truth, then, is that there’s no such thing as “my” time. Our days belong to the Lord, and he won’t always follow the plans we’ve laid out.

Lately, life has been especially full of social engagements and friends in need. My “to do” list has been rewritten nearly every day to include less privacy, less quiet, less writing, but more listening, engaging and assisting. In the background I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit whispering these words, “People are the big rocks.”

The big rocks. Picture a large empty vase. Now imagine three slightly smaller containers, one filled with big rocks, one with pebbles, and one with sand. Our task? To fit everything into the vase. If we pour in the sand, then the pebbles, then the rocks…Uh oh. ‘Can’t get those big ‘ol rocks in on top of all the small stuff.  

What happens if we fill the vase with big rocks first? Is it full now? Maybe no more big rocks will fit, but there’s still an awful lot of space in there. Once we jiggle in in the pebbles, there’s room for sand to filter into the remaining nooks and crannies. Voila! Everything that needed to go into the vase has found its place!

We have to make room for the big stuff in our lives first, and let everything else fit in as it can. If some of the pebbles and a few grains of sand end up falling to the floor, that’s better than leaving out a rock. And in almost every case, people are the big stuff. Before a perfect home or perfect hair, before even a good night’s sleep or ______ (you fill in the blank), people take precedence. So, next time someone asks for a bit of our time, before we say no and go back to our pre-planned endeavors, maybe we need to listen, to see if the Holy Spirit is saying once again, “People are the big rocks.”

Managing the Margin

Do you wear yourself out trying to do too much, often feeling like you came up short by the end of the day? Now and then we all need to take stock of our time, taking inventory of what we really must do each day. What’s left is “the margin.” Once we understand what the margin is, we can do a better job of managing the odds and ends that are waiting to eat up our “free time.”

An hour is just 1/24th of your day, but what a huge chunk of your margin it may be! Taking good care of yourself takes time. So does pouring your life into those who need you. If you use the list below to take stock, you may find yourself better equipped to understand “where the time goes” and to make every hour count.

Start with 24 hours, then start subtracting   24
Sleep (Ideally 7-9 hours)                            (    ) hours
Dress, get ready, eat breakfast                  (    ) hours
Commute to work (there and back)            (    ) hours
Work (include lunch time)                           (    ) hours
Prepare and eat and clean up dinner         (    ) hours
Do housework, chores, paperwork             (    ) hours
Run errands, on average                            (    ) hours
Complete night time routine                        (    ) hours
Time Margin that,s left*                               *_______

(*Of course, reality would suggest subtracting another 60-90 minutes for the unexpected stuff of life that invariably happens.)

If you came up with a negative number, you’re doing too much. (No surprise there.) Something’s got to give, and it’s time for you to find that something and give it up.

  • Ask someone you trust to help you prayerfully decide where to cut down on your activities. Then ask that same friend to hold you accountable to your decision to return to a balanced life.
  • Begin to budget your time.
  • It might help to buy a monthly planning calendar to help you see the “big picture.”
  • Schedule in some “white space” every month for catching up or resting.
  • Take care not to add new commitments to an already full docket without eliminating something else.

If you came up with a positive number, good for you! Now you are equipped to properly evaluate the choices you make about the use of your time. Think about your time margin before you decide what to watch, what to do, what commitments to make.

There’s time to do all God wants you to do. But maybe it’s not all supposed to happen right now. Be patient. The One who made you can make your tasks and your time fit together perfectly.