Serving time

Pastoral Messages | January 1, 2015

We speak of prisoners “serving time.” I have never been incarcerated, so my words are careful here. But if I were imprisoned, I am guessing that service to the clock would be as awful as the toughness to the lock securing my cell.

Time never seems to serve us. Or, maybe we just need to be realistic and say that time marches on. It marches right past our best management skills. Who do you know that can manage time? Really? Time ignores all attempts to harness its forward movement. We can yank the batteries from a clock; but what does that do but put us further in debt to the relentless aggressive nature of time.

Most of us do a pretty good job of measuring time in short intervals. When we are happy or glad, time moves swiftly. We cannot slow it down any more than we can bottle it, though a certain joy within us would love to do both. When we are lonely or bored, time grinds sluggishly along. Nothing short of a miracle seems capable of speeding it up.

But if we comprehend time ephemerally – in very short intervals – how do we process the passage of time on the occasion of a new year? The short answer is: Not very well. There is no lobe or compartment in our brain that records the passage of time. Yes, we can pull all kinds of things from that safe deposit box called our memory. But this isn’t the same as making clear sense of the grand sweep of time and history in a daily way.

I think about the passage of time every year when the calendar turns to January 1. Like you, I look backwards and forwards – mostly forward, I suppose. So how does one make sense of the passage of time? Sam was a thimble of a kid just yesterday; today he’s as tall as Mom. Mary had a vigor that sent people spinning. Some of us failed to anticipate how empty life would seem without her.

I give up on trying to process the passage of time in any adequate way. But there is one dimension of time that I want you and me to attend to. It is the ever-present increase of the pressure of time.

Busyness has achieved a glorified social status in America. We’ve linked importance with busyness. We spend too much valuable energy telling others how jam-packed our life is. (I am right about this, am I not?) In the process, we’ve missed most of the tender blessings that go with every day – the awesome sharing that comes only when we are fully present to another human being.

The purpose of life cannot possibly be to outschedule our friends. This “busier than thou” aspiration is recorded nowhere in scripture. At least I can’t find it. So, let’s all make this modest resolution for 2015: That we spend less time thinking and talking about how many things we have to do, and more time enjoying the people we know and the people whom we get to meet.

I have decided that talking about how much we have to do, regardless of how much of that “to do” is actually there, makes us incredibly boring people. And who among us wants to go through 2015 as a boring soul? Please, say no.


Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

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