by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
I realize once again that my default setting is “more efficient.” I signed up for a drawing class during the day so I could be home at night. But the class overlapped a standing meeting. As I searched for another time slot for the standing meeting, I found my self saying these words, “By taking the drawing class during the day, I thought I was being more efficient.” In other words, I want to do morein a fixed amount of time each week. The answer therefore is simple: be efficient.
Eugene Peterson says ‘hurry is a form of violence done on time.’ Henri Nouwen says the best word to describe our lives is “compulsive.” I am convinced the demons of our False Self thrive best on chaos. Noise, noise, noise. Televisions on all the time, radio on all the time, just-in-time shopping, squeezed between suburban soccer practice, church meeting, dinner (eaten in mini-vans as God created us to do – J. Ortberg), car fill up, movie rental return, run by the office supply store for a padded envelope… You get the idea.
What if time was not a commodity, which we could barter for, trade for, collateralize and squeeze? Time is a crop. This definition of time means we should think of time as something to be nurtured and tended – not “hot-housed,” synthesized or plasticized.
Perhaps the best way to describe time as a crop is to think about our prayers. We want g-d to answer our prayers fast. We fervently pray for a long time because we mistakenly believe that if we load enough time and intensity to our prayers, then g-d will be won over against his will and he will have to do our bidding. This is driven NOT by the desire to hear from the Lord, but to control g-d’s will. But if time is thought of as a crop, then WAITING is the bulk of prayer.
Think of time as crop. Now we must WAIT for the winter thaw, WAIT for the right soil moisture, prepare the soil, plant the seed, WAIT for the rain, WAIT for the right temperature, hope against hope that blight, fungus, pests and such don’t destroy our TIME plantings (what others think of us will damage our sense of peace more than any spell a demon could ever concoct).
More is NOT the fruit time should bear. Efficiency is not the fruit time should bear. What should time bear? Relationship. Relationship with g-d, SELF, relationship with family, friends, soul-mates, fellow Stuff-marters… humans.
Can we make the sun hurry? Can we make the sun more efficient in it’s appointed course? Daylight savings makes me chuckle. We shift the clock in an attempt to hurry the rise of the sun (Fall). How feeble this feels! How weak we really are! We are such pitiable “little gods,” working our little incantations upon the sun.
Waiting really is the art of living well. I am no longer convinced Patience is a character trait. No, Patience is listed in the New Testament as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It comes as a result of the Spirit’s Presence. How then, does one gain the Spirit’s Presence? Not by contrived hurried worship or self-effused prayer. The Spirit comes on its own agenda, its own time. G-d is younger than us. Yes, g-d is young like a child enjoying every moment, lingering, dilly-dallying, playing, creating, laughing, singing, lost in minor moments from our perspective. Time belongs to g-d, he owns it, all of it. G-d needs no Efficiency, g-d needs no More.
Of course it is wrong to say g-d waits, but to us, that is what it feels like. For we are getting older, slower, maybe crankier, and we are in a big hurry. We are restless sheep who cannot lie down (Ps. 23). We are anxious (Phil. 4:6). So we commodify Time… buying and selling Time like a commodity at the Board of Trade. Time has lost its real value – or to say it in technical terms, time as lost its “nomena” or its “realness” and has just become a “phenomena” or Sign or Signifier, a symbol onlyof Relationship with g-d. No wonder prayer feels cheap and more tricksy, like g-d is a vending machine who won’t give what we paid for and demanded, and we now must “shaken ’em down.” “Give—-me—-what—-I—-want——now!”
Become a Time Farmer. Wait. Prepare prayers. Write them out by hand. Drop out something from your schedule. Throw away the stock certificates of Time and just dilly-dally more. Go slow and watch. Otherwise you and I will be only desperate predators, seeking and prowling for our next Time meal, compulsive and aggressive… angry, greedy.