This Advent season is the second since I left the pastorate, and I’ve not yet reset my internal clock. Since this past Friday was graduation at Mars Hill, I am on leave until after New Year’s; on what used to be one of the busiest weeks of the year, I’m relatively free of work-related responsibilities.
My still-default mode, though, is to gear-up. I’m glad for the opportunity to recalibrate my sense of time and expectations, but it’s taking longer than I ever imagined it would.
I’m fascinated by the ways we experience time, how it can both drag on and fly by—how, as Gretchen Rubin puts it: “The days are long but the years are short.” Anita and I are receiving Christmas cards from long-time friends which include pictures of children who are older than we were when we first met them. She and I will both turn 60 next year, and it doesn’t seem so long ago that we were both in the 9th grade at M.D. Collins High School, the year we met.
I’m increasingly convinced that living a full human life depends on a changed—and healthier— relationship with time. As New Year’s Day, 1943, approached, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: ”As time is the most valuable thing we have, because it is the most irrevocable, the thought of any lost time trouble us whenever we look back. Time is lost in which we have failed to live a full human life, gain experience, learn, create, enjoy and suffer; it is time that has not been filled up but left empty.”
“A full human life” is vitally related to “time filled up,” but not with frenzied activity, relentless hurry, and distracting noise. Instead, we fill life with confidence that God is God and we are not—that there are things we cannot do and, therefore, do not have to do.
Carlo Petrini, one of the founders of “the slow food” movement, said:
You are in control of deciding how fast you have to go . . . It is useless to force the rhythms of life. If I live with the anxiety to go fast, I will not live well. My addiction to speed will make me sick. The art of living is about learning to give time to each and every thing. If I have sacrificed my life to speed, then that is impossible.
I don’t want my emotional RPMs to rev so high that all I do is rush and all I hear is the pounding of my heart.
So, I’m praying this lovely collect from The Book of Common Prayer: “O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
It is by learning to rest our bodies and souls and savoring quietness that we discover the wisdom and energy to live in ways that count, for things that matter, and with overflowing joy.
Your article resonates within my soul. This is my first Advent season since choosing to end a pastorate earlier this year. In the last few days the struggle to engage in Advent and Christmas has been more and more difficult. This was the Christmas I most anticipated for the last few years. In my head I had already begun the process of developing worship plans and ministry choices for December 2016, all of which would culminate in a climatic and grand celebration of worship on 12/25.
After reading your insight today, I find myself reassessing my use of tie and the abandonment of my worship planning. Thank you my friend.
Stephen, thank you for this message. I can imagine how difficult it is to navigate this season which is so different from what you imagined it would. My prayers and hopes for you and your family that joy will find you. Best, Guy
Thank you! Just the message I needed today and at this time of the year.
Great gratitude for your friendship and your thoughts!
I am glad to know that these words offered you something helpful to you, Fran. Our love and thanks to you. Merry Christmas to you, too!
A very timely sentiment, if you’ll pardon the pun. Thank you, as always, for such words of wisdom.
Thank you so much, Jan. Hope you have a joyful Christmas.
Savor your first season as a civilian… It sounds like you are.
Thank you, Peggy. I am. . . Hope you and Michael have a wonderful Christmas.