From time to time, I experiment with timelessness by taking off my watch.
That naked wrist feels as daring and vulnerable as a bathing suit in a January blizzard, while every glance to check the time quickens my pulse to the rhythm of the question that my heart needs to hear: What’s your hurry?
Contriving a virtue where perhaps there is none, I like to believe that I’ve acquired a “disciplined approach” to time: a “watch your minutes and your hours will take care of themselves” Depression-era frugality with the span of my days.
And it’s true enough that my huge garden and my history of homeschooling four boys have given me plenty of opportunity to fine-tune the art and science of multi-tasking. I’ve folded laundry and entertained a baby while listening to an eight-year-old practicing his piano lesson; I’ve canned green beans while quietly scribbling rhymed clues for a birthday scavenger hunt; I’ve made strawberry jam while preparing a lesson to teach at VBS the next morning.
It can be hazardous to take off your watch when you’re the only one in the house who can tell time – especially if there is a schedule out there somewhere that’s holding together a fragile infrastructure. However, it occurred to me this year (I’m a slow learner) that I’m past the mid-point in this journey of raising boys with more years of parenting in the rear-view mirror than on the road ahead. Furthermore, I’ve also noticed (I said I was a slow learner!) that all my boys are becoming competent and trustworthy — unlikely to eat Drano or to put a fork into an outlet — and are very cued-in to their own schedules and needs. They write their own work hours into pocket-sized planners carried around in man-sized pants. They can make a sandwich if they need to. While this is a salutary thing, it also means that this metamorphosis into independence has happened right under my nose while I have been busily making pizza and grousing about the odd number of socks under the couch.
Did I hurry through potty-training so that I could hurry through tooth fairy visits and multiplication flash cards?
Have I hurried through bedtime prayers and the blessing song so that I could hurry through curfews and car keys?
What’s my hurry?
I want the volume of this question to drown out the ticking of the clock and the notion that no matter how much I accomplish in a day, it’s not enough. I want to tear down the giant parentheses that I’ve erected around my minutes so that I can listen to the person who is talking to me and be all there; so that if someone has a great idea, it doesn’t have to elbow its way through the web of plans that I’ve already solidified.
I am celebrating (and at the same time coercing myself into) this healthier relationship with time by:
- Purchasing a smaller day planner. Fewer lines each day means fewer tasks-bump it to the next day or leave it undone. An over-long do-list leaves no space for a be-list.
- Going for a daily walk with a lumbering St. Bernard. Sometimes I bring memorized verses on 3×5 cards to review, but sometimes my brain is a blue screen of invitation for God’s thoughts to permeate.
- Reading Scripture out loud when I’m alone in the house (or waiting in the mini-van) which forces me to slow down and to form the words with my mouth, to hear myself saying truth, to savor the syllables and gain the grace that slows my pulse.
As I turn the pages and ponder the words that God has given, I find the truth that my time, like my next breath, is a gift from God, and He owns forever. So, what’s my hurry?
To gain the luxury of laughing over shared silliness and the comfort of simply sharing space with my favorite people, can I resist the greed and impatience of a life that is lived to the ticking off of tasks?
Next, next, next, next, next, next, next …
I’ve observed (and complained) that it is the nature of God to do many things very slowly. He takes all the long leisure of eternity to accomplish His purposes, so who am I to act as if time were something to be hoarded? God may require that I walk when I’d prefer to run, and, as Shepherd of my soul, He may say that it’s time for me to lie down.
What’s your hurry, soul? Read the words of Psalm 31:14-15 and mean it:
“But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in Your hand.”
Lord, teach me the wisdom of conducting my life according to Your timetable, for You are the One who holds time.
This post first appeared at SheLoves Magazine.
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