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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I Don't Have Time for This

Over the years, I have used this phrase whenever I don't want to deal with something, often something mildly irritating:

The kids are fighting about what toppings are appropriate for grilled cheese...

"I don't have time for this."

My horrible Internet connection is running so slowly that I might actually have to reset it...

"I don't have time for this."

A prospective employer wants me to fill out an application with exactly the same information that is available on my CV...

"I don't have time for this."

The drama mamas are whining about my teenagers having no interest in dating their offspring, while simultaneously expressing concerns that my same teenagers just explained open theism to an entire room full of nice church kids... at camp...

"Nobody has time for this."

Actually, if that last one ever happens to any of you, just run... fast... faster than I did...

So, the truth is, we all actually wake up, do whatever we do, and go back to sleep in twenty-four hour periods called days.  When we put seven of these together, we have a week.  Fifty-two of those, and that makes up a year.  We all have exactly the same amount of time, day to day, and the difference between the entire amount of time we get, overall, is negligible.  The average life expectancy in the United States is just under 80 years old.  If you make it to 65, chances are excellent that you'll make it to 85 but probably not 90.  Still, something like 10% of people who live to 65 will also pass 95, so it happens.  Personally, I'm holding out hope that I have my great-grandma's genes for longevity, because she lived to 103.  But even 103 years isn't all that long in the grand scheme of the narrative of God and history.

I have occasionally been hard on myself when the words, "I don't have time for this," roll off my tongue.  I have tried to convince myself that I have time for whatever is actually a priority to me and that I shouldn't use this phrase liberally, precisely because of the fact that I have the same amount of time in a day as anyone else.  But the more I think about it, the more I am considering this as a phrase worth reclaiming.  I do not have time for things that don't really matter.  I do not have time for these things, because I don't want to have time for them.  And neither do you.   

Psalm 39:5, "You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure" (NIV).

James 4:13-17, "Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them" (NIV).

We have time to do good.  We have time to do what is right and redemptive and builds the Kingdom.  Because the truth is, everything we do is temporary.  Everything we do is fleeting.  There is actually no such thing as empire building or legacy...  at least, there's no such thing apart from the people we touch and impact for the sake of continued redemption. 

When I look at the big picture, I know that the things I do are important for the moment.  What we do matters.  It just doesn't last.  And please don't misunderstand, because there is a very popular opinion that we should only do things that have eternal value, but I think this is sometimes inaccurate.  Let me explain...

Last weekend, my extended family spent some time together on Lake Michigan.  We went to a retreat center and stayed in a cabin and I think there was sand between my toes for forty-eight hours, and I was wet the entire time.  I'm not much of a camper, but I had fun.  One afternoon, there was an opportunity to go off campus and fill personal care packages for people who have lost everything in the Louisiana floods.  The seven of us participated in this venture.  We packed shampoo and toothpaste and soap, and the soap is really important, because my youngest daughter (who is six) did that part, and although she was excited to help, she was also distraught over the fact that we were going to pack all of this stuff and it was going to be shipped to Louisiana, because she really thought we were going to deliver it, ourselves, and build new houses for all of the displaced people while we were there.  She dreams big.  I love that.  But somehow I had to help her understand that the world is bigger than just us, and the organization we were helping had specific information about what was needed, immediately, and that we were just a little part of it, this time.  The truth is, that soap may be all used up, today.  If not, it will be within a week or two.  It won't last, but it does matter.  Meeting immediate needs is something we should have time for, because by the very definition, immediate needs can't wait. 

I have no idea if someone in Louisiana will come to know and love Jesus because my baby put a bar of soap in a plastic bag.  But this is the kind of stuff about which I hear other people saying, "We don't have time for this," and it makes me mad.  And when I'm mad, I cry.  So everybody thinks I'm sad.  And I guess it does make me sad, as well. 

We have time for this.  We have to have time for this. 

Not too long ago, someone confronted me about this kind of thinking and explained to me in no uncertain terms that this kind of ministry to others doesn't count as discipleship, because there is no worship service and nobody gets saved.  Well, whatever.  My child now knows how to work as a team and love a little bit harder, so I'm not going to worry too much about whether or not it counts.

Well, this is getting long.  Let's end with Augustine, because this quote, one of my favorites, is so beautifully controversial...       

"Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved" (Augustine, probably pretty severely paraphrased, but we all say that this is what he said).

I have time for this.  I have time to do whatever I please.


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