It is a twenty-first century mantra that nobody has enough time. Multi-tasking is an essential skill, even for young children, and in any group of people, if you listen, you will hear a persistent theme – I didn’t have enough time, I don’t have enough time, I ran out of time.
I say these words, too. If only I had more time. Yet it is well known that nobody has any more time than anyone else, and none of us can manufacture time no matter how hard we try. What’s more, we don’t have any more or any less time than our parents or grandparents. Contemporary advances in technology have truly not given us any more time. Further, because we don’t have enough time, we are under terrible stress.
Stress is a killer. Doctors say that many health issues either originate in stress or are exacerbated by stress. People can be stressed by fear, inappropriate expectations of themselves or others, and by a perceived need for more time. In an attempt to deal with the issue, personal organizers have become popular, but for some, the organizer is simply a place to record with terrifying orderliness the ultimate depressing truth that they don’t have enough time.
Where does time come from? How can we get more of it? Why is time such an oppressive taskmaster?
Time is a gift of the God who created the universe. The reality we all see, hear, taste, touch and smell is an environment bounded by time and space. Try as we will, we cannot be in two places at the same time, and despite our use of the word “multi-task” to suggest that we can do two things at the same time, we actually cannot. Multi-tasking is only very fast switching between two or more single tasks. We are at the lowest level completely single-threaded. And nobody has longer threads or more threads than anyone else. When we stress over what we experience as a deficit of time, we are actually saying that we think God short-changed us.
Nobody will ever likely be more stressed than Jesus’ disciples the night he was arrested. It is hard to imagine what could produce more stress than the terror of imminent arrest, torture and gruesome execution. We all want to think that we might have been more faithful than the disciples who ran away when Jesus was arrested, but the evidence of people’s faithless behavior in various situations over the past two thousand years makes it quite clear that everyone is capable of falling away when things get scary.
Jesus knew what was coming, and he knew that his “time” had run out for earthly ministry. The night before he was arrested, he gave his disciples a gift they would need when they was Jesus dragged away. They would be saying, “If only we had more time with Jesus,” but there wouldn’t be any more. He gave them a gift that would transcend their stress as they realized that for them, time had come to a halt. When we feel stressed, even if our stress is not about imminent death, we, too, can claim this gift as Christ’s followers. The gift he gave to his disciples is a gift for each of us, too. That gift is peace.
Peace I give to you. My peace I leave with you. I do not give as the world gives. Don not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:27
This gift is the gift we all need in order to see the gift of time for the richness that it is. The God who created the universe out of nothing by the word of his mouth, is not stingy with time. The God who fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish has not short-changed humanity by giving us only 24 hours each day. There is plenty of time. The God of abundant provision has provided more than enough time. We do not need to be stressed. Lately God has led me to think about time a great deal, and he has led me to understand that there is plenty of time to do what he has called each of us to do. Plenty of time.
It has been a while since anyone said to me, “Take your time,” but I remember how it feels to be given that gift. God is saying to me now that he wants me to give that gift to other people.
There was a time in my life when I shopped for groceries by walking to the grocery store, buying my groceries, and taking a cab back home. The people at the service desk in the store called cabs for customers, and all I had to say was, “Would you please call Joe for me?”
When Joe arrived, I had to unload my grocery cart into his trunk. I always wanted to get the job done quickly and not delay him. I usually managed to spill cans or boxes out of my grocery bags in my hurry, but every time, he said, “Take your time. There’s no rush.” When we arrived back at my home, again I tried to unload my things hastily. Joe always said, “Take your time. Don’t worry.” It was a true blessing to be given time to complete my task without feeling I had imposed on him.
Lately, I realize that everybody needs that gift. As a Christian, I live in relationship with the Creator of time. Just as God provided manna for the Israelites, God gives me new time every day. By his grace, I am called to share that gift with others. It is easy to do. All I need to say is, “Take your time. There is no rush.” Just as Joe gave me the time and freedom to unload my groceries without rushing and breaking eggs and crushing my bread, I can give other people the time they need, the time they almost certainly believe they don’t have.
I can’t make more time for myself or anyone, but as Christ’s representative in the midst of daily life, I can give time away like the disciples who began handing out bread and fish at Christ’s command. They all knew they started with not nearly enough food for five thousand people, but somehow there was enough. When I trust Christ and start giving away time, there will always be enough.
I have plenty of time to listen to an elderly man who is wandering the docks with a crystal block in his hand. He comes up to me and says, “Do you know what this is?” and I say, “No. What is it? Tell me about it. Take your time.” We sit down, and he explains that he made this very beautiful but very functional piece of hardware to be “jewelry” for his wooden sailboat. I remember that Christ has given me perfect peace and that he is Lord of time. I have time to listen.
I have plenty of time to call my two elderly aunts who live alone and endure the health problems that go with advanced years. I can listen to their stories and share my own, because there is enough time and to spare. When they stumble over the details, I can say, “Take your time. There is no rush.”
At the checkout line, a frazzled woman with a child in her cart and two others calling, “Mommy, Mommy, can we get candy?” is rummaging in her purse for her credit card. She looks up at me and says, “I’m sorry. I’m so clumsy today.” I can say, “Take your time. There’s no rush.” I can pass to her the peace Christ has given to me, and I can give her the gift of enough time to take a breath and pay her bill and shush her children without fear that I am checking my calendar to see how late I will be to my next meeting.
I give my order to the fast-food cashier, who discovers someone else took the last bag of fries just as she reached for them. She turns to me and says, “I’m sorry. It will be a couple of minutes.” I can say to her, “Take your time. There’s no rush. The peace of Christ be with you.” Then I can go wait my couple of minutes and hope her day is a bit less stressed because she just received the gift of more time.
God is telling me that my word for today is “Take your time.” The God who dwells in eternity has infiltrated the world of time and space and given me so much time that I have time to give away to others. When I do, I will remember that Jesus said, “Peace I give to you. My peace I leave with you. … Do not let your heart be troubled.”
I am the servant of eternal God who created time. Eternal God calls me to live in his frame of reference – eternity. When I think like God, I can give time away to others and know that I will not run out. I can say, from the center of God’s love, with perfect peace, ‘Take your time.”