One of the most important questions I ask applicants to our Arche Year Cohorts at the School of Kingdom Writers is “This program takes ten hours per week. What are you going to give up?”

Their answer to this question is probably the best indicator of their success in the program.

“I just have a lot of free time,” is usually a big red flag.

No one has free time. It’s a myth. I haven’t met a human being yet who legitimately spends large amounts of time staring at a wall, literally doing nothing. You may have poorly used time, but it’s not free. Whether you’re cleaning your house, watching TV, or walking around the neighborhood, you’re still doing something. And if you’re going to do something else, like write a book, you won’t be able to do that old thing anymore.

I love helping people make their dreams come true. I know that sounds silly, but that’s always what’s driven me.

Before I got into publishing, I did web marketing and small business development with micro-entrepreneurs. My typical client was a guy working out of his garage with some crazy idea. I loved it. So many people talk about their big ideas, but these were the ones that were going for it. I loved helping them do things that the world said was impossible.

After working with tons of people, here’s one thing I learned: We focus too much on the thing we want to start doing.

I’m going to start writing more.

I’m going to start exercising.

I’m going to start a business.

I’m going to start dating and find a spouse.

OK, but what are you going to stop doing?

You can magically create more time in your life for a short time. You can sleep less, eat faster, work late into the night—there are a dozen ways you can get “driven” and make stuff happen. But it’s not sustainable.

This is why so many projects start with a bang and then we burn out. We run out of energy because we add projects in without subtracting anything out.

Sometimes we have legitimate “wasted” time that we can cut out. We can watch less TV, we can get up a little earlier in the morning, we can spend less time on social media.

But you need rest in your life, too. Sometimes those “waste” activities are actually rest activities. We may be able to reclaim the time but there’s really no energy to be captured there. Again, we burn out.

Usually in order to engage in a new productive task, we need to give up an old one. Even if our present use of time is really stupid, it will still take effort to cut those activities out.

Jesus talked about this. You may know it as the “count the cost” passage. You should read the full section in Luke 14:25-33, but Jesus says this in verse 28:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

As my friend and SOKW alum Jeff Lucas has taught me, Jesus isn’t actually concerned with financial budgeting in this passage. Jesus is actually talking about giving up everything to follow him.

According to Jesus in this passage, some things you might give up to follow him include fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers, sisters…even your own life. Similar passages in the other gospels include fields and houses.

Jesus is not urging his followers to reclaim “wasted” time here, he’s telling them the mission is going to come before everything. You’re going to give up the good stuff.

If you’re following Jesus, I believe the Holy Spirit is calling you into more. I’ve never met anyone who’s all the way there. I know the Lord is always calling me to more and more.

He may be calling you to a seemingly big thing: start a ministry, move far away, go to a writing school in Zanesville, Ohio. Or he may be calling you to a small thing: exercise, read more, spend time in prayer.

No matter if it’s big or small, trying to just pile it on top of your life is a recipe for shame and burn out.

Sometimes a better approach is to begin by asking the Lord, “OK, what are some good candidates for things I can cut out?”

Maybe the Lord will identify some “wasted” time and energy that you can reclaim. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Your mind will still crave that leisure.

But the Lord also might identify things that are intrinsically good: exercise, the garden, extra time with your spouse or kids, your secondary income.

If you want to make a change in your life, if you want to do something new, then something old has to go.

We all fill our lives to capacity. None of us sit and stare at the wall. Whether our lives are filled with valuable things or invaluable things doesn’t really matter. We fill every hour.

How many times have you prayed, like I have, “Fill me Lord?” Fill what?! We’re already full!

If God is calling you to more, and I think he is, start by creating a vacuum in your life. Start by stopping something. See what God can do when we ruthlessly make space in our lives. Make an empty hole and then guard it. No one gets to fill it again but the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes God calls us to give up everything to pursue our mission. Is God calling you to write? Are you ready to put it all on the line? Curious, at least? Apply to the School of Kingdom Writers and start a conversation today.

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