Keeping Time


Eugene Peterson’s book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, offers the subtitle, A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, something the introduction defines as “the attention that the church community gives to keeping what we think about God (theology) in organic connection with the way we live with God (spirituality).” But I’d like to extend Peterson’s conversation offer to a wider audience than he and I, so expect this theme (connecting what we think about God to the way we live) to guide my Sunday articles for the next forty of fifty years, give or take a decade.

Let’s take it from the top: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” I learned it early in life. I remember it today as well as I remember how to spell my name. I was taught that this passage was the arena in which we fought atheism and evolution, but I was never taught that this text was foundational for a life lived today. But it seems to be. It teaches us how to live with the mind-boggling gift of time.

Leonard Sweet writes, “Time is life’s fundamental necessity but has become the ultimate luxury – the most expensive and extravagant thing we have. We’re in a time famine…” Peterson adds, “Among the many desecrations visited upon the creation, the profanation of time ranks near the top, at least among North Americans… The most conspicuous evidences of this desecration are hurry and procrastination.” He adds, “Genesis 1 is not in a hurry. And Genesis 1 does not procrastinate.”

It’s true (is it not?) that Christians have fallen captive to the desecration of time. We somehow come to believe that time in this life is just to be endured, hurried through until heaven, wishing life away for the “pie in the sky by and by.” Alongside, we learn the lesson of “getting done what has to be done” while putting off anything that might stand in our way, like, for instance, a child who wants to play a game, or a beaten-down Jew dying on the side of the road. Bottom line: Speed-walk to heaven with blinders on.

But Genesis 1 does not do this. Instead, we discover it to be downright rhythmic. There is a cadence. Try it (I’ll wait!) – read Genesis 1 out loud and see if you don’t almost hear the music trying to get in step with its cadence. You even find yourself “keeping time.” Ah, that’s it. Keeping time. The very thing we don’t do much of anymore.

There is a world around us, a world we are blessed to enter into each and every day. It is filled with breathtaking wonder and exquisite detail and the most fascinating people, most of which we never see as we hurry through life on our way to something more important. But where we are going is not more important. Our first key to noticing this important fact of life (remembering maybe?) is in recovering the rhythm of time.


4 Responses to “Keeping Time”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I don’t understand, Big Dan – er, Big Al. Can you expand for us, a bit, what it means to desecrate or profane time? If you have time, of course. 🙂 It sounds like you’re headed somewhere interesting, I’m just not quite clear where.

  2. Al Sturgeon Says:

    To fail to recognize the holiness of the moments we are given each day.

    For example, to refer back to the long MLK discussion, to spend our “time” dreaming of (or rushing toward) golden streets someday instead of finding God in the streets on the other side of the tracks.

    That sort of thing…

    Does that make any sense? I’m really tired, so it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me right now either.

    Maybe its “time” to go to bed and desecrate a few hours my own self.

  3. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Okay, I must have been really tired last night when I responded because I thought you asked me to “explain” what it means to desecrate time, not “expand” on it. I had just returned from a Habitat meeting with two positive surprises afterwards that fits in with this topic: two long, separate conversations with a couple of very neat people.

    So… to expand…

    We’ve got a weird relationship with time. If I’ve said them once, I’ve said all these things a million times:
    * “I don’t have time to [fill-in-the-blank] right now”
    * “I wish there were more hours in a day”
    * “I’m busy right now”
    * “I’ll get around to that someday”
    * “I’ve got to hurry”
    * “I’m wasting my time with…”

    If we’re in any way interested in learning to live like God would have us live (read: Jesus), we’ve got to notice that God/Jesus treated time much differently than we treat it.

    We are usually in a hurry. God/Jesus never seemed in a hurry.

    We often waste time. God/Jesus never seemed to waste time.

    We typically neglect apparently important things (e.g. serving, loving, sharing) for apparently unimportant things (e.g. making money, television, worry). God/Jesus didn’t seem to have his time priorities screwed up.

    We have very little real conversation on how to maintain the holiness of time. (If addressed at all, we work on “time management” to see how much more “productive” we can become, but never how we can learn to regularly recognize time’s holiness.) From the attention we give it, the topic doesn’t seem to be important to us, but when you think about it, what could be more important to us than our time?

    The saying goes that “time is money,” but truthfully, “time is LIFE.” Or, time IS life.

    Genesis 1 teaches a life approach with its rhythm I think. Work six days, morning to evening, unhurried but productive. Rest on the seventh. God seemed to think this such a good idea that he legislated it for Israel, and though Jesus often got in trouble for disobeying the Pharisaic interpretation, he never rejected the benefit for mankind. We’ve rejected the rhythm however.

    My perceived American version of time:
    * Work 50 weeks 7 days a week if necessary, then go to Orlando for 2 weeks. Run, run, run…
    * If you have kids, put them in every class imaginable and run all over town every evening, eating in drive-thru’s, run, run, run…
    * Then when your kids are grown, retire from everything – work, family, church, community – plant a garden, watch Fox News, drive an RV…

    I think God’s rhythm is better. Six days of being productive, though unhurried, appreciating Creation along the way. Then take a day off to rest and re-focus.

    Well there’s some “expanding” at least. Don’t know if it’s helpful or not…

  4. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Interesting. To borrow one of Mikey’s favorite phrases, let me give it a think.

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