This is part eight in a series discussing Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. If you missed the previous parts, here is a link to Part 7, or you can start at the beginning with Part 1.
Chapter Five is entitled The Rest of Time: Stopping to Number Our Days Aright. The theme of this chapter is that looking at our days correctly enables us to spend them well. The idea of Sabbath is what makes this possible for me. Stopping to evaluate my perspective and how I’m spending or investing my time helps me to get back on track if I have wandered off. Buchanan claims that: “There’s an arithmetic of timekeeping, and God must tutor us in it. Wisdom is not the precondition for learning this arithmetic. It’s the fruit of it.”
We must keep our eyes open continually to how God is at work in the moments of every day. The more we spend time with Him in Sabbath rest, the easier it becomes for us to recognize those moments. Like the proverbial sheep, we learn to hear our Shepherds voice and mannerisms. When some little coincidence happens, we can sometimes recognize the activity of our Father, and sometimes see random chance. Time with Him will help us to recognize the difference more clearly. My football team winning their game this week, likely not the hand of my Father (much as I love my sports teams, I have a suspicion that they are not nearly so important to God as they are to me). On the other hand, the perfect example popping into my head while I teach is just the kind of gift I can see as being straight from His hand. He has called me to my profession, and gifted me with talents and abilities to do my calling well. It would be just like Him to lavish an unexpected brainstorm on me while doing what He has called and gifted me to do!
What I want to avoid is being so focused on what I think is important that I miss what God is up to in my life. As Buchanan states, “A common characteristic of driven people is that, at some point, they forget the purpose. They lose the point.” I do not want to lose the point. I want to remember why I am doing what I am doing. The trick to doing this is not to properly manage my time. Time is a gift. I don’t think that I should be managing such a precious gift. I should be using it wisely. The manager of gifts guards them carefully. The truly grateful recipient pays attention and looks for opportunities to use the gift to benefit as many as possible.
Another way of thinking about it is to look at our reaction to distraction. When life’s little distractions come, how do we react? My tendency is to react with indignation at the inconvenience or to try to rush through it to get back “on task”. Increasingly, I am coming to see that this is an impoverished view of life and time. I realize that I am acting like the disciples did when interruptions came at Jesus. They tried to shoo away the distractions and keep people away from Jesus (the little children, the blind man by the side of the road, etc.). How did Jesus react? He always took time. He tells the little children to come to Him. He acknowledges and values the woman whose bleeding was healed by a touch of His robe, even though it delays His journey. He tells the blind beggar to come to Him. He stops to forgive, and eventually heal, the man who is let down through the roof, interrupting His teaching. Consistently, Jesus sees these interruptions not as an inconvenience or delay in His mission, but as part of His mission. Buchanan quotes Henri Nouwen: “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”
In my life, this has a great deal of meaning. At school I am interrupted by students coming by with questions. Or another day it might be a colleague with a question, or an advisee with a scheduling issue. In each of these, and the myriad others, I have a choice about how to react. Do I look at each as an inconvenience that delays my grading or preparation for teaching? Or do I look at these as opportunities to show someone how valuable they are to me, and to my Father. I have a chance to really exemplify my Messiah, and I need the refocusing of Sabbath to remind me of this.
Sabbath also helps to remind me that I need the same perspective at home. My kids are not an inconvenience, they are part of my work! My wife is not an interruption to my life, she is a vital part of my life, and investing time in her is crucial to me being who God wants me to be in my life. The less I remember the importance of Sabbath, the more my perspective of time is warped and prohibits me from being who God wants me to be in the moments of life.
I’ll end this with one last quote from Buchanan. A good reminder of the proper perspective of time for Christians.
Most of us live afraid that we’re almost out of time. But you and I, we’re heirs of eternity. We’re not short of days.
We just need to number them aright.