With the outbreak of COVID-19, perhaps what I have learned the most about is time.
In days gone by, time was often filled with baseball games and soccer practices, shopping and vacationing, commuting and complaining about commuting. Back then, we all had busy jobs, busy schedules, and too many due dates. In those days, we thought life was complete; it was fraught with fulfilling busywork and calendars filled to exploding.
When COVID hit and life screeched to a halt, we got to take some much-needed time to hit the reset button, as it were. We stopped doing what we always did and made time to do the things we always wished we could, like family game nights and puzzles, reading books and watching Netflix. After a while of these beautiful things to do, however, we may have decided that time was also ours to waste. Maybe we spent more and more time binging that great tv series and reading less and less books to our kids. We started staying up late and sleeping in late, until soon we spent more hours sleeping than we did doing anything constructive.
While reading this week’s Come, Follow Me lesson, I was struck by a phrase that Amulek uses in Alma 34:33. He says, “. . . if we do not improve of our time in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed” (emphasis added).
“Improve of our time” — what exactly does that phrase mean, and how are we to accomplish such a task? The word “improve” insinuates growth and progression. It is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “to make or become better, to develop or increase in mental capacity by education or experience and to achieve or produce something better than.”
I like this last definition. To achieve or produce something better than… Better than what? When we use our time to learn, study, ponder, serve, practice a talent, or devote ourselves to a worthy cause, we become something better than what we used to be. We begin to fulfill part of the mission we have been called to perform in these latter days. When we take time out of our lives to improve the life of someone else, we are being the Lord’s hands on the earth. It is not always an easy thing to do, especially when self-quarantined in our homes, but there are ways and there are countless examples of those who have made a difference.
For instance, on the Church website justserve.org, in my local community alone there are close to a dozen different service opportunities available — none of which take a lot of time or resources to participate in. When we step outside of ourselves, we become more than what we were and we improve of our time while on this earth.
Bishop Gérald Caussé said, “Reaching out to those in need, helping others that are needy or affected is really at the center of the gospel. It is at the core of our beliefs. We try to emulate the example of Jesus Christ as disciples.”
Disciples of Jesus — that really is our goal in this life, and the Savior achieved more than anyone ever living at improving His time. He spent no time thinking of Himself, no wasting His time doing frivolous things. His time was spent serving, loving, and blessing the lives of others. I am certain that at the heart of Amulek’s speech were thoughts of Jesus Christ and the perfect example He set.
Let us not bring guilt into the equation, however; we are all here to simply do our best. Perhaps our best could be better and perhaps COVID-19 showed us some tendencies we need to improve, but the Lord is pleased with effort. He is happy with our efforts and our desires to improve. It is true that we only have this life in which to improve of our time, so we should strive to make the most of it. When we pass on to the next life, be it sooner or later, perhaps we will answer the question of how we used our time, and did we improve on it? Did we bless the lives of others and make our lives better by doing so?
Perhaps it is in the searching for ways to improve that we discover God’s true purpose for our lives. He will give us direction, but in many cases only when we ask and seek diligently for it. He wants us to find ourselves by finding Him. Seek for His guidance by following the example of His Son. Lose ourselves in the service of others so we can discover the wonders of a changed heart and a contrite spirit.
May we ever focus our energies and our time on improving of that time and striving to find ways of being and becoming more.
Janette Beverley is a lover of life, family, music, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy, and has five amazing children and one equally amazing husband. Janette is excited to be writing for LDS Blogs and sharing her love and passion for finding the miraculous among the mundane, the awe-inspiring among the obvious, and the uplifting among the underestimated. To read more of her work, you can visit Janette's personal blog here.