There was a very handy term we used on occasion when I worked in sales and marketing: TME.
We used it when we had a prospect that was, well, very time consuming. Perhaps their organization’s decision-making process was especially cumbersome, decision rights were unclear, they had an inordinate amount of questions and need for explanation, their consideration process required an unusual amount of meetings that didn’t seem to be making progress, and their price point was low – especially for the amount of work required to get them on board.
They were simply Too Much Effort.
If they came on board, great. We’d welcome them. But for the amount of time and energy needed to invest in making that happen, it just didn’t make sense. If we spent our time navigating their wieldy process and meetings, we were not spending our time serving those who desired to implement our best practices. There were organizations that could benefit from our services, and we chose to focus our efforts on them.
Sometimes in life, TME is wise. There are some situations where TME frees us to truly focus on the things the Lord desires for us.
But sometimes we get tricked. Sometimes we label the wrong things ‘TME.’
Let’s take as an example the temple builders.
The Israelites came back from exile with the express purpose of building a temple.
This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them… Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. ~ Ezra 1:2-3, 5
They returned from exile to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. 50,000 of them. For 2 years they worked, and they completed the foundation with great rejoicing (Ezra 3:8-10). They sang to the Lord with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord:
“He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.” ~ Ezra 3:11
Yet their enemies set out to frustrate their plans. They discouraged them and made them afraid to continue building. They hired consultants to work against them (Ezra 4:4-5). It halted their work – for 14 years.
“The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.” ~ Haggai 1:2
The Lord’s theory?
“Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains in ruins?” ~ Haggai 1:3
They’d been working hard on building… that is, they’d been working hard on building their own houses. Paneling goes on top of stone, so the Israelites had built their houses of stone, then added paneling. Yet they had not been working on the Lord’s house. The Lord had showed his might and faithfulness in bringing them back from exile, yet some consultants made them afraid to build God’s temple.
They’d labeled it TME. For 14 years.
The Lord points out the futility of this:
“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvest little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” ~ Haggai 1:7-8
They have been investing in the wrong things. Spending their time on things that are not the Lord’s focus. Busy, but not producing an abundance of fruit.
“Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” ~ Haggai 1:9
Sometimes we get distracted from what the Lord desires us to work on – from what He *tells* us to work on. We let fear or frustrations derail us. We let the amount of effort required discourage us. We label the wrong thing TME, and instead, we work on things we think are good or valuable.
Yet there is one thing that turned it around for the people of Israel:
“I am with you,” declares the Lord. ~ Haggai 1:13
Then the people began work on the house of the Lord. After allowing fear and frustration to thwart doing what the Lord had called them to do, they got back to work. And do you know how long it took? After 14 years of ‘TME,’ they rebuilt the temple in 4 years.
They’d busied themselves with other priorities instead of tackling the Lord’s priority – which could have long been completed.
Sometimes we do this in life. There are roadblocks or hecklers or frustrations that make things hard, so we say, ‘TME.’
Yet that TME is tricky. It often finds itself attached to the wrong things. It rears its tempting head and latches on to things it shouldn’t – things that God actually cares a lot about.
Like for the Israelites, building His temple. For us, it could be that our believing friend uses the Lord’s name in vain. Yet we say, ‘TME.’ We’d rather ‘keep the peace.’
Or maybe our believing friend is about to marry an unbeliever. We think about addressing it with them, but then we say, ‘TME.’ We’d rather sort of steer them to a pastor and hope he’ll deal with it. We’d rather not have to get into it.
Or let’s say our marriage is taking a lot of work. A *lot* of work. It’s exhausting. And frustrating. And there is a cute person in our life with whom relating does not seem to be a lot of work. So we’re tempted to say of our marriage, ‘TME.’
This happens often in conflict situations. Confronting can seem so hard. Giving that last 10% seems to take so much energy. Perhaps we are in the middle of throwing PIES, and the E just seems a bit too daunting. Like something we’d rather skip. It’s so tempting to slap that TME on it and just let the relationship dissolve. Let them do their own thing. Or let them go down the path that God doesn’t want them to go down.
Like the Israelites, we get frustrated or feel daunted. We get afraid or lack courage. And sometimes, instead of going to the source of all courage and the one who conquers all, we get out our TME marker.
For some reason, we can have the energy to confront someone on a habit that personally annoys us… yet isn’t in the Bible. Maybe they smack their gum, and we snap back. Maybe their laugh annoys us, and we say something persnickety. Maybe they love healthy food, and it makes us feel guilty, so we jab at them a bit. Whatever it is, there seem to be issues that we have no qualms about confronting.
Yet things that are in Scripture? Things the Lord cares about. For some reason, we can end up labeling the wrong things ‘TME.’ We can end up giving in to our frustrations, giving heed to roadblocks, and labeling the things that build His temple ‘TME.’
Our key question is,
Is it in the Bible?
If the answer is yes, then our answer is never TME.
Our answer is to keep building.
Our marriage. Our relationship with believers. Helping others understand what the Lord desires.
Our answer is to call upon the source of all courage… and keep building.
“I am with you,” declares the Lord. ~ Haggai 1:13
Sometimes it is hard, and we may be tempted to give into our frustrations. But if it’s a passion of the Lord’s, brick by brick… we keep building.
Because what we’re building is glorious. It is of the Lord.
photo purchased from Cutcaster