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4 Ways to Not Waste Your Summer


Fun fact: in college, I was the slowest reader I knew. As an English major, it wasn’t uncommon for a professor to ask the whole class to read a passage silently, and then look up when finished. I was always the last one to look up.

Aside from being embarrassing, it was a massive waste of time. I probably spent twice as much time reading as my classmates. Worse yet: I knew I would be reading books for the rest of my life, and it suddenly occurred to me that if I read at the half the speed of my classmates, I would read half as many books as them over the course of my life.

So, I decided to spend an entire summer focused on increasing my reading speed. One summer’s worth of time to double the number of books I’m able to read in my life? That’s a good return on investment.

First, I took a test to determine my reading speed and discovered that I was reading at the pace of an average middle schooler. In other words, I wasn’t just slow. I was really slow.

Second, I created a schedule. Every day before work, over lunch, and at night I did reading speed exercises from a workbook I bought online. During my weeklong vacation, I went hard. By the end of the summer, I’d tripled my reading speed.

Don’t Help Yourself. Redeem Your Time.

Don’t worry. This isn’t a self-help article where I brag about myself and tell you that you, too, can achieve your dreams. I don’t think I’ve ever accomplished a goal that significant since.

I’m not special. But I go back to my memory of that summer vacation frequently to remind myself of an incredibly important Biblical principle:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)

The apostle Paul understood that we all have a temptation to waste our most valuable resource: time. Unlike money, you cannot make more time. You have the exact same amount of time in your week as Bill Gates, AOC, your closest friend, and your worst enemy.

Time is the great equalizer.

Paul believed that, in light of Jesus’s resurrection, Christians should be hopeful about their time. Jesus brings life where there is death, so a person who once wasted hours on mindless entertainment, useless worry, or manic working, has hope.

The Spirit is at work in you to redeem your time.

The Power of Summer Vacation

This means that summer vacation is a highly valuable resource. I realize that many of the people reading this aren’t students with months of time off each summer. But nonetheless, summer is often a time where our schedules get lighter, and we leave for a week or two on vacation.

In other words, summer is often rich in your most valuable commodity: time.

The problem is that we rarely invest those hours intentionally. We rarely lay our treasure at the feet of Jesus and say, “How would you have me spend this time? Would you help me redeem it?”

I look back on my summer of speed reading with thankfulness because it was a time in which I did that. And God really did make it clear—as silly as it might sound—that he wanted me to improve my reading speed for a productive future in ministry.

I asked him for the grace to follow through on this goal, and he gave me what I needed. How do I know it was God? Because I’m not disciplined enough to achieve that kind of change on my own.

What about you? How is God calling you to redeem time? How does he want you to use your hours this summer in your apprenticeship to him?

Here are four ideas to consider:

1. Invest in your education.

Take an online class or create a personal reading list on a topic that you want to learn more about. Maybe you want to honor God by doing your work with greater excellence, so you spend that time developing a skill. Or maybe you want to learn more about Jesus, so you select a book about him that stretches your intellectual abilities.

2. Improve an artisanal hobby.

God gave us bodies, which means embodied life is good. Unfortunately, many of us work in the knowledge economy, so the only work we do with our hands are relatively simple chores, lawn care, and home repair. Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life as a carpenter, which shows that there is a real goodness to tasks that require physical manipulation and mental focus.

For me—again, don’t laugh—this looks like butchering, preparing, and smoking all sorts of meat. I love the process. Multiple knives. Different rubs. Lighting fires. Spritzing and checking progression. Using different surfaces, oils, fats, and flames to produce different results.

What about you? Is there a craft, instrument, or artisan interest you could invest time improving this summer? Do it for the glory of God, embracing the goodness of your body and your innate ability to create good things out of God’s creation.

3. Develop New Spiritual Disciplines.

This is what I want to do this summer. I’ve always wanted to practice fasting and silence as a part of my walk with Jesus, but I’ve never dedicated significant time to strengthening those spiritual muscles. What about you? Do you want to develop a habit of praying throughout your day? Of reading your Bible every day? Of studying commentaries?

Ask Jesus for the strength to redeem your time and invest your summer in spiritual discipline.

4. Invest in a relationship.

How is your relationship with your best friend going? Your spouse? Your parent? Your child? Find a way to invest consistent time in that relationship. Trying doing “FANOS,” where both of you share on the topics below:

  • Feelings: What feeling have I felt this week?
  • Affirmation: What’s one thing I want to affirm about you this week.
  • Needs: How do I need some extra help this upcoming week?
  • Owning: What’s one way I sinned against you this week?
  • Spirituality: How has my spiritual life been this week?

Of course, there are countless other things you can wisely spend time on: athletics, physical fitness, and writing/journaling. Start by spending time in prayer with God, asking him to redeem your time this summer.

Do you want to experience God in a new way this summer? Find out how the ancient art of Lectio Divina can help you change the way you pray.