Free Time and the Widow’s Mite

By: Victoria Sanborn

Free time is nice. It’s reallllly nice. Maybe some in quarantine feel they have far too much of it. I get that. I recall times where I wish I had more required of me so my day could have some structure and my lethargy some direction. Even under quarantine, however, that’s not my reality as the mother of a toddler (though of course he’s quite entertaining)! Yet when that coveted free time finally arrives, I think our question remains the same… how can I best use this time with all the various things I need or want to do?

Case in point, my morning yesterday: After several hours, David was able once again to take over for me with John, our almost 17 month old. My first thought? I can’t WAIT to get on that project! What project? Truthfully, one of 10 I have on my mental to-do list. The one most present to me at the moment? I want to FINALLY finish our wedding album (over 2 years in the works)! I delved back in. I usually try to pray for some period of time in the morning, and it occurred to me that I could do morning prayer or read today’s Scripture readings, but I still had a couple hours left of technical “morning” before noon, so… I’ll just work on the album for a few minutes.

Next thing I know, David is reminding me that we had planned to watch daily live-stream Mass at 1pm and it’s now 1:10pm. So we scrambled to get everything in order to watch. It was hard to focus, my mind was not in the game. I was still rearranging wedding pictures and captions in my head. If I allowed it, my project to-do list (some more vital than others) could take up every ounce of my very limited free time including my sleep time. But continually foregoing prayer and steamrolling through without connecting with the Lord is not an option if I want a deep and intimate prayer life. I can feel this conundrum deep in my bones. I imagine I’m not the only one. Something is going to be sacrificed.

During our live-stream Mass time, a message came through in prayer that spoke straight to my heart. I felt Christ asking me for what I know to be my widow’s mite, my free time – He was asking to be my first priority when that cherished free-time comes. Otherwise, I’ve learned time and time again, that the opportunity passes me by even in spite of my good intentions to get to it later. You may recall in Scripture when Jesus watches people putting money in the Temple treasury. He praises the widow who puts in a small amount because it was everything she had. It was worth more in his eyes than the larger amounts given by those who had a surplus. For someone who used to live in a monastery (a story for another time), it can be hard for me not to have many opportunity and steadiness of mind for more prayer. The reminder that Christ sees the widow’s mite and praises it renews my peace. I can offer him my widow’s mite and receive the invitation to walk in ever deeper faith.

On a practical note, during Holy Week last year, I received some sage advice in confession (he was a married, former Anglican priest familiar with family life). He encouraged me as a concrete daily practice to use the first minutes right after John’s naps immediately for prayer before running off to do dishes or a project or whatnot. I think many of us need these sort of concrete regular practices to ensure we don’t let our list of projects take over until we can no longer remember what sitting in the presence of God feels like. I’m not always the best at doing this, but it helps. There might be some analogous, helpful practice in your daily life. I find that the more activities I try to juggle without prioritizing and setting aside, “hallowing” times and places of prayer, the harder it is to enter into the prayer fully with my mind and heart, precisely the parts the Lord desires in our time with him and the parts of us that most fully need transformation in his grace.

No, I can’t and shouldn’t live like I’m in the monastery anymore. But the alternate path, avoiding giving even what little we have, can and will snowball until we no longer remember the sense of God. I know that snowball all too well. How consoling to know that having “little” does not disqualify us from pleasing Christ, enjoying his presence, and placing our treasure in him! Let us make an act of faith and entrust our widow’s mite to the Lord. It will be precious in his eyes, and he will take care of the rest.