When “making the most” becomes unhealthy

“It goes so fast.”

I can’t count the number of times someone has said this to me – or that I’ve said it to myself. And while it’s just one of those things people say to you when you’re a new parent, I’ve noticed it triggers something inside of me each time.

Fear. Fear that I’m not making the most of this time.

But the more I stress about making every moment count, the less I’m able to enjoy them. The more desperate I am to make the most of my time, the more I seem to waste it. I try to do too much – and become exhausted. I don’t let others help – and become frustrated. I overcommit – and struggle to be truly present. I don’t give myself breaks – and become impatient… and then feel guilty about being impatient.

All for the sake of “making the most of every moment.”

That’s the hard truth – when we confuse quantity with quality, we risk frustration at best and burnout at worst. The ironic reality is that we can’t make the most of our time if we’re constantly stressed about making the most of our time.

In Ephesians 5:15-17, we are told to make the most of our time. But this verse isn’t the original inspiration behind the idea of “FOMO” that torments millennials like me. Turns out there were two different Greek words for “time.” One was the literal idea of an hour or day or minute. The other was for a portion of time, a season or opportunity. In Ephesians 5, we see the latter: we are called to “make the most of every opportunity.” Aka, every season. Time here isn’t a reference to a single moment but rather a collection of them. 

Realizing this was a lightbulb moment for me. Paul isn’t telling us to wring every minute dry to the point of exhaustion. He’s telling us to make the most of the season we’re in and the opportunities within it.

To do that, we just might need to “waste” a few moments along the way in order to not waste the season.

For example, in my life right now, that might look like saying no to plans (even good ones) or setting strong boundaries around work so I can be more present at home. It might mean taking time for myself so I’m not burned out at the end of the day. It might mean just sitting and doing ‘nothing’ for a few minutes each day so that I can release the pressure of trying to cram too much into my schedule.

Whatever it looks like, it’s giving up the compulsion to fill every moment in order to make them count. It’s letting intentionality and purpose guide our days, rather than the fear of missing out. It’s learning to steward our time but not hoard it, to enjoy our time but not idolize it.

Maybe that’s the secret – and the freedom – we find in Ephesians 5. We can give ourselves grace in the moments we fall short. We can say no confidently. We can let go of the pressure of filling every minute to the absolute brim because we have the greater season in mind.

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