Ephesians 1: 8b-10
We have this sense, in the world we live in, at least among people my age, because I can’t speak to the retired experience, that there is always more to do, there is always something left on the list, always another place to drive to. I think, however, that there are some retired people who run just as hard, do just as much, are committed to as many worthy goals.
We’re all doing our best, and we all really do climb some pretty tall mountains every day in our to-do lists. We’re all trying to be productive members of society, and we all seem to be doing pretty good jobs.
When Donna was sick, there were times I would drive down Demunds road and through The Cut three times in a day, headed to a hospital visit, then picking up Joe from school, and sometimes needing to stop to pick up something to cook quickly before an evening meeting. Now, as I continue to explore and construct what my new normal life is, I remember those days, and I wonder if, now that the time of extremity is past, if a day constructed by God wouldn’t look a little different.
Here’s a question: If you were to take your daily schedule and hand it over to God, physically put it in God’s hands, and say to God, “OK, you show me what you mean by proper use of time,” what do you think you’d get back?
Now, I think that there would be more time blocked off for family, and there would be less time blocked off for work. I think there would be more time for hobbies, and less time for TV. I don’t know if there would be more time for prayer, because I think personal prayer is a matter of intentionality rather than a calendar entry. I think it’s like breathing, or at least it is the goal. Praying with others, however, would take a calendar block
I think, but I’m not sure.
I am pretty sure, however, that there would be more time for rest. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 says that: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
God’s sense of time is eternal and balanced. So as we seek to construct our lives, to be good stewards of the time we’re given, perhaps we should seek the same balance.
It’s been noticed that the life of monks was split roughly into thirds-one third rest, one third prayer, one third work. There’s a quote I read once, in a book of wisdom from the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the people who went out into the Egyptian desert in the 3rd and 4th century that says (and I’m paraphrasing, here):
“If you are at manual labor in your room and it comes time to pray, do not say ‘I will use up my supply of branches for the basket I am weaving and then I will go pray’, but rise immediately and go to prayer. Otherwise, little by little, you will come to neglect your prayer, and your soul will become a wasteland devoid of any spiritual and bodily work.”
Can you imagine, in our culture, if you went to your bosses, say up at the P&G plant, and told them that, in order to keep your life balanced, it was not a good idea either to have such long shifts, or to work either night or swing? I have a feeling that that meeting would not go well. Production must be met, and if you weren’t willing to work the way that’s been set up, there are plenty of people who would.
The problem is, in God’s eyes, your request would be entirely proper. Corporations do not view the world the way God does. God has a sense of time that is eternal-he can see the whole scope of time, from beginning to end, the way we can see a grain of rice, one end to the other. Our struggle, as children of God, is to realize and keep that perspective as God’s children, and yet still be able to function in this world, keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.
We can’t always control what demands are placed on us, by work, by children, by volunteer obligations. But we can grow spiritually to the point where we realize that the task that seems so urgent, really isn’t so important in the long view. Or maybe the urgencies start to change. We can begin to realize that times of rest, times of prayer, times with friends and family, are just as important, and perhaps more so to our souls, as times of “productivity.” Sabbath, the idea of a dedicated time of rest, and times of prayer, truly aren’t just quaint ideas. They really do matter. We need down time, we need time to restore our perspective.
So, if you were to hand your calendar over to God, and he was to apply his perspective to your daily routine, how would it change? If you were to apply the old monastic rhythm of 1/3 work,. 1/3 prayer, 1/3 rest, how would it change?
So, for this Lent, are you perhaps willing to try to change a few things?
And can you begin by realizing that most of the things in our lives are truly not worthy of the “urgent” flag we stick to it?
Will you take a step toward living in God’s time?