Think of the last time you ran into an acquaintance at the post office or grocery store or carpool line or similar public spot.
The conversation probably began with pleasantries, asking how one another is. You check on each other's families. Then you venture into the territory of small talk and its most popular topics: the weather and time. You comment on the heat, the sun, the lack of sun, the chances of rain. Or perhaps you skip the weather and jump right to talking about time, especially if in a hurry. You speak of how busy you are, of how busy everybody is. Your acquaintance nods in agreement. You trade stories of how fast-paced your life is. You're so busy that the conversation must end so that you can resume your busyness.
"I don't have time ...."
"There aren't enough hours in the day..."
"Where did the time go?"
I wish that I could say I exaggerated that scenario, but the truth is that I engage in and overhear that conversation everyday. We lament how quickly our children grow up but long for the evening hour when another day has ended. We want to have deeper conversations with one another but don't know where to squeeze them into our already-tight schedules. Time has become something that we try to possess rather than a gift that God calls us to invest and share.
This week included one day where my calendar was packed. I try not to overcommit myself, but these days still emerge despite our best efforts. On this particular day, a friend and I had tentatively agreed to meet for lunch. Beginning at 7AM, I picked up my phone every hour to text her and cancel. "There's no time for lunch today," I told myself. "It will be easier if I grab a bite at home and get back to work. "
Before long, when I still had not cancelled and she had written to confirm, I realized how desperately I needed to sit down and eat lunch with a friend. If ever there is a time to stop, it's the time we don't think we can stop.
Somehow, I arrived at the restaurant before she did. I ordered a cup of coffee and waited. Of course my mind wandered to what I was not accomplishing by sitting there. Of course I tapped my toe and watched the clock. But when my friend arrived, and the conversation moved away from my schedule to our shared time together, how drastically my attitude changed. I listened. She listened. We laughed. The food was delicious. We thanked each other for the sacred hour as we said good-bye.
As a result of that lunchtime visit, I did not send all the emails I'd intended. I did not publish this blog post as early as I would have liked. I had to pick up the pace later that day to fulfill all commitments. But time was better spent because of the space we gave to a conversation of deep quality.
The next time you catch yourself saying some variation of, "I don't have time," please pause. We don't "have time" because time is not to be had. We are to cherish it. We are to value it. Let us cup the fragile gift of time delicately in our hands. Let us offer it back to God. Let us embrace what he offers for each season and every matter under heaven.
all good things to each of you,