Do you know any “important” people? How do they respond when ask them how things are going? I’ll be willing to bet that one of the first five words they utter will be “busy!” If you thought for a minute that I’m not busy right now, you could be pretty sure that I’m not important. It’s not enough just to be working (even working “productively”) – we need to be busy, and to be seen as being busy.
And that affects how we relate to our time. It practically forces us to treat time as a “commodity.” This is not controversial in the least… Do a quick internet search on “time as a commodity” and you’ll see no end of variations on the theme that time IS a commodity and it is, in fact, the most valuable commodity.
But that’s looking at it as a resource for our own enrichment. We’ve seen how unbridled commodification of our physical earth leads to the degradation of and alienation from something that was created good, that was and is a gift, a token of grace, that we’ve been commissioned by the Creator to steward and nurture, not exploit. And the same goes for time.
What is “redeeming” creation if not “taking it off the market” and relocating it within God’s purposes? And what is “redeeming the time” if not “buying it back” from the ways we’ve abused it (and allowed it to abuse us) and accept it anew as the good gift it actually is?
One thing I’ve observed happens all too easily… When we feel we don’t have enough time – when time seems to be getting away from us – when we are “important” and, therefore, extremely busy – we don’t make a priority of finding time to simply be with one another.
As believers, that’s not good. Because our calling as the church (the sum total of all who follow Jesus) is “to show that Christianity is true by demonstrating what community would look like if the gospel were true.” For example, what would community look like if there really was a Holy Spirit that brought certain fruit forth in our life. Like “gentleness”…
What does “gentleness” mean, particularly as Paul envisioned it as part of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:23)? Jesus walked it out… Listen: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest… Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-30, NLT).
Like it or not, gentleness is a vital dimension of the kingdom of God. It’s also something we learn to do. It takes work, and patience, the willingness and ability to slow down. And for that we need to renegotiate our battle with time.
I am learning to develop the patience to slow down, to recognize that my life is not my own creation. As I do, I draw closer to the Eternal, whose image and likeness I reflect, who has filled the universe with beauty and who created every one of us. Because He always finds time to be with us, to sit with us, and to move us to a place in time that we can truly call our own.
When I approach time as a “commodity,” I become so caught up with doing things FOR people (maybe caring for them, maybe preaching to them) that I cease to BE WITH them in any significant way.
I’ve been in cross-cultural ministry for a couple decades now. If I’ve learned one thing of worth, it’s this: ministry, particularly if it’s to be transformational, always comes down to relationships. The fabric of transformation is woven from threads of human relationships… particularly friendships. So much comes down to belonging – finding where we belong and offering a place of welcome and friendship to those outside of Christ, where they can experience the reality that they really DO belong. That’s what “evangelism” really is.
Such relationships require time… time to listen, to understand, to overcome distance. Time to eat together, to pray together, to celebrate life together.
We seem to think that time has meaning only when it’s part of our plans and purposes, that unplanned time is empty time, like a wasteland.
Our view of the world changes radically when we realize that God is in the process of redeeming it. How might our view of time change when we consider that it, too, is something that God is actively redeeming? Might that help us become “friends of time”?