Next Time

I love the little phrases that pop up in our house. One of our favorites is a phrase Cooper has grown fond of saying. When we don’t do something the way he wants, he’ll, in his best pouting voice, request “next time.” Something to the effect of, “Next time, don’t eat all of the candy,” or “Next time, don’t take Theo to school so early.” He says it so often that Amanda and I wait for the next time he will say, “Next time.” 

It is a marvelous bargaining chip. It carries the air of a demand, yet it is not so pushy as to necessitate immediate action. Instead, he merely asks us to consider doing something different the next time. And as a parent, it is a very persuasive argument for me to think about the next time that particular scenario comes around. 

We often play the “Next Time” game with ourselves. And when we are always considering the next opportunity, we rarely make the most of our current circumstances. Instead, we will behave differently the next time a dilemma presents itself. Or that if we are not meeting our expectations, we will do better the next time we have an opportunity. This avoidance happens in all facets of our lives, perhaps even more so in our spiritual endeavors.  

That is why there is always an undertone of urgency when we read the scriptures; we never know if there will be a next time. We see this in Jesus’ encounter with his disciples after he speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well. 

John 4:35-38 – “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Jesus uses what appears to be a common expression to them about planting a seed and waiting four months for it to grow to maturity. But Jesus explains that they can’t wait four months; the fields are ready now. We often think that we will have more time or that we will get more opportunities the “next time” we see someone. However, Jesus lets his disciples know to observe the situation and recognize if the heads of the wheat are ready to be picked. Doing this places a responsibility on us (the workers in the field) to perceive an open heart and seize it if it is available. 

Paul will go on to echo these thoughts as he writes to the churches in Ephesus and Colosse. 

Ephesians 5:14-17 – “This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Colossians 4:5-6 – “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

As we engage in our everyday conversations, we should be doing so to make the most of every opportunity. Paul says that this is what it means to act wisely as opposed to foolishly. The wisdom from proverbs puts it this way: “I passed by the field of a lazy one, And by the vineyard of a person lacking sense, And behold, it was completely overgrown with weeds; Its surface was covered with weeds, And its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, [and] received instruction. “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,” Then your poverty will come like a drifter, And your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:30-34). If we are constantly waiting for the next opportunity, that is when the weeds begin to grow, and the walls start to crumble. Weeds are evil, and if we don’t tackle the weeds today, they will grow, invade and overtake the land around us. If we wait for the “next time,” the weeds may become too much to handle. By making the most of every opportunity, we can indeed be wise. If we constantly think that we will be different the next time, they won’t, they never are, there will be more weeds, and it will be more challenging. So make the most of every opportunity and don’t wait for the “next time.”


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