Time. It’s something I think about (okay, obsess about!) a lot. Even after more than a year in countries where timeliness isn’t as important, I can’t seem to help myself. If something is supposed to start at 10, and we haven’t started by 10:15, I get anxious.
Because I consider time a precious commodity, I tend to fill it in a way to maximize productivity. Why do only one thing when I can get three done simultaneously?The trouble is, like a balloon, I keep forcing more and more into the space until my day (and me!) is straining to hold it all in. Then, when something is running 15 minutes late… POP!
So, I start to pray. Please, Father, stretch my time so I can finish all the things I need to do for You. On the surface, this seems like a reasonable, even pious, request. After all, even Joshua asked for extra time to complete a task God had given him (Joshua 10)!Now, like Joshua, at times we all get super busy, and the demands on us are all important. I think we truly do want to do great things for our great God. But, I’m beginning to think that my well-intended ‘stretching’ prayers say more about my need to be in control than about glorifying God.
God separated the light from the darkness, established day and night, and called it good. He established rhythms by which to live. There is a time, a season for everything. Sowing and Reaping, Tearing Down and Building Up, even Loving and Hating (Ecclesiastes 3).In the ‘olden days’ it wasn’t really possible to keep working on into the night. Now, we’ve made artificial suns, and so we can keep going. Instead of a healthy rhythm of sleeping and waking, working and resting, we push out into night. The balloon keeps stretching, nearing the bursting point.
We’ve made the super-busy Christian into the standard for true holiness. Wow, look at her! No matter what the activity, she’s right here to help out. Look at him! He hasn’t been home a single night this week. We’re sure blessed to have him be our pastor!Worse, we look down on those who don’t keep the pace. What do you mean you want to skip Bible Study this week to spend time with your family? You can’t help because you’re going to sit and read a book… just for fun?
I have to confess to having bought into this. As if ignoring God’s rhythm, and instead frantically living at the bursting point, is somehow pleasing to Him. One of the Ten Commandments is to honor the Sabbath (Exodus 20). By consecrating (making holy) an entire day, I think God made His desire for us to have rest pretty clear!Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, but there’s so much to be done! My ‘pious’ prayer quickly becomes a put-upon whine, Lord, don’t You care? Don’t You see how busy I am, doing things for You? What will happen if I dry my hands and come out of the kitchen to sit with Mary? Do You want to try and teach above the sound of all these grumbling stomachs? (Luke 10)
It seems to me the utmost in arrogance to act as if without my effort God’s will is not going to be accomplished. Yes, we all have a part, but a part of our part is living how God has intended.
What if… what if what I really need to be praying is not for God to stretch my time, but for me to have the will, the resolve, the courage, even, to let some things go? To seek to live within God’s good and perfect boundaries?
I cannot change how others view time, but I can begin changing how I do. I’m happy to say I have taken some baby steps. It used to be I’d get anxious if we were 5 minutes late! Yep, in 15 months my ‘anxiety-meter’ has moved ten whole minutes… But, it’s a start!
I pray that whatever you have to do today, you will take some time to just enjoy being in God’s presence. Resting, relaxing, allowing a bit of air to seep out of the balloon. God has promised that when we honor His good and perfect commands, we will be blessed. Let’s start to live out of that assurance! Let’s start today!