The four letter word that runs our lives.

alarm clock

My first stint as an educator was chosen by the clock.

My training was in pastoral studies. But I was being asked to become a high school teacher in a Christian school. In 256 undergraduate-graduate semester hours I had precisely 6 hours in any type of teaching preparation. Just in terms of time, I was unprepared to teach in a formal educational setting. Time seemed to underscore the obvious choice.

But then I asked myself how much influence could I have within a certain amount of time?

Since one of my gifts is teaching I compared the two opportunities:

Teaching once a week for 45 minutes over 50 Sundays a year equals 37.5 hours per year

Teaching five times a week for 45 minutes over 180 days a year equals 135 hours per yearits_about_time

By almost a 4 to 1 margin, teaching in a school won out. The most influence I might have over time made my decision to teach an easy one.

Time was my focus when I thought about the people I would teach. In a pastoral role I would principally interact with adults. In a teaching role, I would teach teenagers. Time of life mattered in my decision. I operated based on the anonymous mantra

It is better to build children than repair adults.

The most formative time in life is youth. Ideas which begin to root in the early years will bear fruit in later years. Time was my focus when I thought about the people I would teach.

Longevity was another time issue. How much influence would one have over the longest period of time? How would ideas germinate and grow throughout one’s life? More importantly, if I teach younger people, they will most probably outlive me. Would it be better to spend time with people whose influence will impact more time than my own?

hourglassThe answer was obvious. Longevity over time was crucial in making my decision to teach.

After 30 years of teaching junior high through doctoral students I am still asking myself the same question: what is the best use of my time?

The amount of time, influence over time, and longevity throughout time mattered most in my life’s decision.

The Steve Miller Band was right: Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future. So the question everyone should answer is “What is the best use of my time?”

Time was on Earl Nightingale’s mind in 1956. His brief speech changed marketing.

The title of Nightingale’s speech was “The Strangest Secret.

Nightingale believed that success in sales and in life was belief in one’s self, in one’s goals. He identified seven ideals necessary for a full life. The seventh is his strangest secret:

“We become what we think about most of the time.”

How we spend our time—what we think about most of the time—impacts us the most.

For me, impressing young minds with true Truth is where I wanted to spend my time.

For you, it may be something different.

But whatever we do, we do it through time.

There are only two questions left for each of us to answer: Eternal_clock

1. How will I spend the time given to me in this life?

2. How will I prepare for time after this life?

Personally seeking truth wherever it’s found, Mark Eckel reminds himself daily of the ancient line “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14).


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  1. Wow…we are so blessed that the Lord called us to to be teachers. Even though I did not have these deep thoughts that you spoke of in your essay 🙂 I am so thankful to be able to work with teenagers and tell them about our Savior and the wonderful plans that He has for their lives. Thank you for sharing this with me my friend.

  2. Loved it Mark. When you suspect you are “out of time” its significance begins to Shout! I am ever grateful for all the time I had as a Christian educator. I am grateful that the Lord led me along the way to His truth, and then gave me the opportunity to share that truth. Even now, time must be used to bring Him glory.

  3. I agree with the comment above… Thank you for choosing to invest in those who came behind you. I, for one, am a life that was changed by your investment.

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