Thomas Carlyle lived from 1785 until 1881. He was known as the one of the great writers of all time. On October 17, 1826, Carlyle married his secretary Jane Welsh. After their marriage, she continued to serve as his secretary until she became terminally ill. It was cancer of the worse kind, a slow growing kind. In the end she was confined to her bed. Although Carlyle loved her, he very seldom made time to visit her. He was too busy with his writings.
When she was carried to the cemetery for the service, Carlyle was so distraught that many thought he would not be able to make it through the funeral. After the service, he went home to Jane’s room where she had been confined for months. Noticing her diary on a table next to the bed, he picked it up and began to read it.
“I have listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it is too late and I fear he won’t be coming today either–I miss him so.” Carlyle read some more only to find out how much she missed the one she loved so dearly.
A few hours later, his friends found him at the grave, tears rolling down his cheeks, saying over and over, “If only I could do it all over again, if only.”
Time is God’s gift to us. As someone said, “When you give time to someone you give them life, because time is life.” St. Paul said, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15). James repeats a similar message, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (Ja. 4:13-15).
It is easy as church workers for us to get so tied up with our work that we forget about what’s most important–our relationships with those who love and support us at home. Studies tell us that the secret to happiness is found in our relationships with people. Without healthy relationships, one cannot experience true happiness. Relationships are what Christianity is all about–a relationship with God brought about through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and our relationship with one another, made possible through Jesus.
In order for these relationships to prosper, we need to make plans. As someone said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It means we have to prioritize our time, making sure there is scheduled times for our family. It means preparing a schedule based on our priorities. It means we have to be willing to delegate responsibilities so that our load might be lightened.
We may have the most talked-about youth group in the area, but if we fail to nurture our relationships with our family, we miss the mark. It may not be apparent immediately, but eventually it will be, just as it was for Thomas Carlyle–only too late.
Rev. Roger Sonnenberg is pastor to Our Savior Lutheran Church in Arcadia, California.