Since when did the clock get to be our master?
I’m nowhere near as organized as some people I know, who keep detailed calendars and to-do lists. I used to buy appointment books to keep track of where I needed to be, when, and with whom. The larger ones allowed you to schedule your day into 15-minute increments. I always found that a little intimidating, as if it would make me a total slacker to not accomplish that level of precision. So I kept things smaller and simpler, and still do.
Yet I still feel the pressure of time.
If I go out of the house without my wristwatch, I feel a little naked, and have to press my cell phone into service as a substitute timekeeper. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I automatically (and stupidly) look over at the clock on my nightstand. Then my mind starts going. How long before I have to get up? Do I have enough time to get in one more cycle of sleep? And what do I have to get done today, anyway?
If I go too far with that last question, I make myself alert and anxious.
Might as well just get up.
Sometimes, I think I’d benefit by learning to manage my time better. There’s a whole time-management industry ready and waiting to teach me what I need to know.
But really, in my case at least, I think the problem isn’t so much the actual scarcity of time or its mismanagement. It’s the constant feeling that time is managing me instead of the other way around.
In John 7, it’s a little sobering to hear Jesus’ brothers labeled as faithless — because if you take their words at face value, they sound so reasonable. Listen, bro. You want to increase your sphere of influence, don’t you? You want to make an impact on the world. Well, then, there’s no time like the present! Go down to Jerusalem, and make the most of the opportunity!
And Jesus’ response is equally sobering: I don’t work on the world’s time. I work on God’s time.
God’s time? I have found myself sweating ministry responsibilities that have suddenly been added to my schedule. Mind you, no one held a gun to my head. They asked, and I said “Yes,” because I believed it was the answer God would have me give.
But then I find myself wondering how I’m going to get things done. Instead of focusing on the opportunity to do God’s work, I think, “Oh, no! This is going to take hours!”
The wonderful thing about grace is that not only does the work get done, but people are blessed by the end result. Sometimes, I get to see things come together in ways that are completely outside my control. Then I have to sit back and marvel. It’s as if the Holy Spirit taps me on the shoulder and reminds me: It’s God work, not yours. You get to be part of it, and it’s your job to show up and use what gifts he’s given you. But it’s his work, in his time.
That’s not to say we don’t need schedules. Whether it’s two people meeting for lunch, or thousands watching a baseball game, we need to know when things are supposed to happen. Schedules and deadlines are a fact of life in a complex society where the energies and efforts of a variety of people need to be coordinated to accomplish a goal.
But the clock and the calendar can be hard taskmasters. It’s not merely a practical issue but a spiritual and emotional one. What would change if we learned to work on God’s time?