Confession: I might not look like it, but inside I’m a thief.
Countless moments a day I catch myself trying to steal something. Snatch it. Hold it close. To own that which isn’t my own…
The instant my eyes snap open, or rather creak open these days, I’m making calculations, drawing intricate interior mind-maps as I try to assemble the upcoming events of the next few minutes, hours, days in an order that works best for me, that provides the greatest level of personal comfort and the outcomes I most desire. In my fantasy alignments the children walk in straight lines, and even Dr M is in synch with my inner-itinary.
My thoughts are perfectly reasonable, I reason. Because, I know, the moment my feet hit the floor, or even before, our little clan of infant time-snatchers will reach out their sticky yogurt-playdough-texta-honey-mandarin-juiced fingers and take any control over the shape of the day away from me. And soon we will be whirling, faster and faster, in ever-spurning circles of domestic chaos.
And as I feel the day catapulting out of my control, I get more and more annoyed. I start skipping things, to get back on track with my map. I breathe fast. I do hard.And the invisible things, the things of stillness, are often the first to go. Like time spent with the Lord. In Christian-speak we call them quiet times. Times of withdrawal, even within the fray, to drink from the living word, to listen, and to pray.
And almost guaranteed —like clockwork (excuse the pun)— something happens when I act like this. By mid-afternoon, or if not by evening, my body and mind are going off. Like an out of order alarm I’m beeping loudly. In trying to possess and control, I’ve created a chaos all of my own, no children required. I’ve stirred up a veritable soul-storm of dust and discontent.
And as the dust settles I wonder why… where did I go wrong? Why all this franticness and frustration. And inside I already know the answer.
I’m hoarding time.
I too often treat time like a commodity I crave.To keep for myself. My way. My pace. My space. Like any craving, selfishness inevitably creeps in alongside desire, and I find myself time-taking when what I should be doing is time receiving.
I need to see time as a gift to be received, rather than as a commodity to be possessed.
And in turn I must give the gift on, to others.
After all, I am not creator. I am not in charge of the ticking of the minutes or the passing of the hours. I am merely creature.
The Bible says a lot about how we are to live, but I can’t think of a single passage that tells us to rush, to bustle, to condense. No mention of fighting for our rights, or of holding our lives tightly in clenched fists (in fact the opposite). No imperative to be always hunting for the next thing. Not once do we see Jesus looking over his shoulder, cutting short a conversation to meet his next deadline. In fact, temporal descriptors used for the Lord, even his own description, emphasise slowness and patience. (Exodus 34: 6; Psalm 103:8). He is, as 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, prepared even to wait on us. For our repentance. For our good. Our God is a God who waits.
Indeed, we are cautioned in the wisdom literature against acting quickly. Haste makes for fools. And it seems to me that the Bible’s focus when it comes to the shape the believer’s life is to take is not so much on outcomes, but process, not on immediate results, but on consistent growth.
It goes without saying, of course, that God’s gaze is longer, wider, and more discerning than my own. If he sees a bigger view of things, then I need to too. Or at least to realise that there is a bigger picture out there that I may not be seeing.
And under the surface, through the years, without my knowledge perhaps, the great sower of seeds and changer of lives may be forming intricate paths of growth and good.
If only I can wake up each morning and just let him be God.