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Time Well Spent

My laptop crashes to the tile, a work-at-home mother's nightmare scenario. I turn from my cutting board to see the recipe-bearing screen lying face-down on the floor. The cord, left within my 15-month old daughter's reach, had proved too enticing.

I had to replace the trashed hard drive and rebuild the laptop (serious feat for tech-rookie me). Two days, four hundred dollars, and some lost data later, I was back up and running. But it was trying to re-connect the printer back that really brought me to my knees.

Hour after hour I did battle with my HP - installing, uninstalling, rebooting - to no avail. I seethed, raged, and re-doubled my efforts. The computer crash was expensive enough; I wasn't about to fund a new printer too! But each time, same error message: "connection attempt failed." I was irate.

Here's the thing: I loathe spending time doing things that bear no result. Loathe it. Built into my psyche is the belief that I should be able to make time work to achieve my goals. When I can't, I feel robbed and violated.

So I - not technology woes - I am the real problem.

"Beginning in the fourth century, the clock made us into time-keepers, then time-savers, then time-servers," wrote Neil Postman. "In the process, we've learned irreverence toward the sun and seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded." And the authority of God too.

With the clock we collude to wrongly view and misuse time. Its minutes tick by; we track, plan, fill them. Time is our commodity - we own it and choose how we'll use it. But it's a lie. God owns time, not us. He gives it to us as a trust for us to steward. So we get a say but not the say in its use.

There are two ways in which we - certainly I - most often dishonor God by wrongly interacting with time.

1. My time is my own, so leave me alone.If I want to spend free time relaxing, watching TV, playing video games, online? what's it to you, or to God? They aren't sins, and relaxing in our over-stressed culture is important.

We do live in an overscheduled and hurry-ridden world, and rest is important (and even commanded). But our society is also overly indulgent and makes every conceivable pleasure readily available for unmitigated wallowing.

If time is God's, then how we use it demands consideration. How would God view our spending hours in front of the TV or poking around on Facebook each night? Such uses of time may well land us the reproach received by the servant who buried his talent in the ground instead of investing it. The master called him "wicked" and "lazy" - two descriptors I hope to avoid when I meet God face to face one day.

2. My time is God's and matters a lot, so let's get ultra-productive.So much to do! I should get more involved in ministry, invest more in relationships, read more, serve more? How can I make the day serve these goals?

We are called to use the time we're given intentionally and well. But this approach causes us to become manic about our hours, striving to bend them to serve our efforts and schedules. The attempt to subjugate and control time leaves us stressed and proud. We cease to rest in Christ and look to ourselves instead of God to order and direct our days.

As seen in the printer episode, I often fall into this camp. When my time is wasted I feel wronged. I become greedy for the time I've lost.

But what do "wasted" and "lost" mean when the time's not mine anyway? Who knows what God may be doing in times that to me appear useless? Take Paul and his months in prison. Talk about an apparent time-waster. I'm fretting over a few miserable hours hunched over my printer while he's imprisoned unjustly for years. Couldn't God have used Paul more fruitfully elsewhere? Evidently not.

In the end, we edge God out in both scenarios. The self-indulgent person is too lazy and distracted to seek God diligently. And the overly busy person's hours are too full and her mindset too fragmented to seek God diligently. Whether we let time slip idly by or do a power-grab at it - either way, we aren't keeping God at the center.

The Psalmist writes: "But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ?You are my God.' My times are in your hands." (31: 14-15) God is trustworthy. As we intentionally and willingly return our times - our days, hours, minutes - to his hands, He will ensure that, from an eternal standpoint, they are perfectly spent.

February17, 2009 at 5:06 PM

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