Monday, March 15, 2010

the poverty of time

We just lost an hour when we switched to Daylight Saving Time this weekend. Well, nothing was really lost, the numbers were just changed in order to make life brighter and more productive for everyone. I don't know about you, but I could use both of those. Let's hope it works. :-)

Time is a funny thing. We treat it like a precious commodity in some ways. We say, "I just don't have the time for x or y anymore." Did we lose it; was it stolen? We say, "I wish I had more time," as if there might be a time depot where we could go to get some. We talk about buying time and spending time, and I guess if you have a cell phone, it sort of applies. "I should make time for that," implies that with the correct ingredients and a good recipe, we could indeed whip some up. Or when we say, "I'll find the time somehow," it conjures up images of an intense hunt for those hours that know how to hide all too well.

The truth is, we all start with the standard allotment of 24 hours in each day. Everyone gets the same. What we do with this 24-hour day is up to us. We cannot run out of time, get more of it, lose it, or find it. We can only make choices about what we do with what we have. There is no use wishing that we could manipulate time for it is not a commodity we can buy and sell or get rich or poor in. It is a gift.

I sometimes get irritated (forgive me) with people who tell me how busy they are and how they don't have time for this or that anymore (in my context, they are usually telling me why I don't see much of them or why they can't come to a particular meeting or event). I wish we were more truthful. It is not that we lack time, it is that we have shuffled our priorities. What I do with my time reflects what is important to me right now.

Of course, there are jobs and school work and life chores that we all have to attend to, and by attending to them we are saying that they are very important to us. Paying the rent is important. Getting good grades and finishing my degree is important. Having food in the cupboard and clean clothes is important. As well, we all have periods of inefficiency in our lives. I will admit to watching way too much television on Friday night because I was just tired of schoolwork and couldn't get up the motivation to clean my house. But time is not about efficiency or the long list of stuff I just can't get out of doing. It is about investing these precious minutes of my life in such a way that they give back to me the things that I really value.

When I say, "I don't have time for x," what I am really saying is, "This is not very important to me right now. In fact, everything else is more important or at least, easier." When I tell someone, "I don't have time to hang out with you this week," I am really saying, "I don't want to do the work of investing in this friendship. I won't reshuffle my life for you." Let's face it: it is hard to worship God, it is hard to be committed to helping a faith community grow, it is hard to develop spiritual maturity, it is hard to disciple people, it is hard to love over a long period of time, and yet these are the things that I hear myself acknowledge as good and right pursuits. They even appear as commands in the Bible, and yet, I find that sometimes in my life very little time is spent on them.
Of course, we don't have time for everything we would like to do, especially if we are at a particularly demanding period in our lives, but who placed us in this demanding situation? We did. By our choices, we have placed ourselves where we are right now. There are always other options. Many things can be negotiated, done over a longer period of time, reworked, or changed in our lives, and we do that every day in order to put the important things in the place of importance. I have left my house untidy and my school work undone in order to jump on the bus and hang out with someone I haven't seen in awhile. I have dropped a course in order to make sure that I don't drop Dean or my friends. The 24-hour day and the 7-day week just reveal what our true priorities are as opposed to the ones that we think we have.

What am I willing to reshuffle my life for? Though it would be unrealistic to have long list of priorities (it only dilutes their importance), here are the two things that I really want to give the power to throw my life into a bit of disarray: learning to love God with all my being, and endeavouring to love the people that God brings into my life. Both of those things are admittedly inconvenient and hard and time-consuming, but I have found that anything worthwhile usually is. As for everything else in my life, it has got to learn to be flexible.
This is the sunset in Hawaii. It happened every day I was there, whether I took the time to enjoy it or not.

No comments: