Because in the school of the Spirit,
man learns wisdom through humility,
knowledge by forgetting,
how to speak by silence,
how to live by dying.
-Johannes Tauler

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

switching to God's time

Time to step it up a notch. We're about eight solid months into this experiment and I do believe it is now game time (huh!). The challenges are getting more acute, my weaknesses are rearing their ugly heads, and there is a sense of descending deeper (or ascending higher?) into this experiment, knowing that with four months left, God has not nearly finished the lessons we are being taught this year. 

Two particular topics have captured my attention over the past couple months, so much so that finding the words to write about them has proven to render me silent, but it is my hope that today I can pen my thoughts on these: food and time. 

They're two things that go together, if you think about it. Most of us aren't privileged to have mothers or maids to prepare our meals for us, so not only does eating take time, but so does cooking and cleaning afterward, as well as obtaining the food from a restaurant or the grocery. I actually quite enjoy cooking, but almost always something else takes priority, and I slap something together to satisfy my stomach in moments of ravishing hunger. Something in me finds it extremely difficult to rationalize spending even 15 or 20 minutes on preparing a meal (although with my novice cooking skills it usually takes me much longer than that to 'whip' something up) and then taking the time to eat it, when there is "oh, so much else to do!" 

But that begs a very potent question: what is this "so much else to do" and why is it taking priority over a basic need of human life?! This struck me one day like a Bible upside the head as I began to consider the state of my life and what I am doing with it. You see, just as with money, spending time is a thing to discern carefully. This year has not been about being cheap or saving as much money as possible, but rather about being wiser and more frugal in the ways money is spent within the bounds of my life. It has been an exercise in climbing out of the box and taking in the view these new conditions afford. I am not poor, but in considering my brothers and sisters who are through my actions, I have come to one step closer to that solidarity that we as followers of Christ seek. 

Just as I have limited the ways in which I spend my money this year, weighing whether a material good is a need or a want and proceeding accordingly, so too must I begin the same process with my time. This is not an act of selfishness, but rather an acknowledgment that if the way I spend my time is causing my basic needs to suffer (food, sleep, etc.), my spirit to wither, and my relationship with God, the most important one in my life, to lack because I do not have or make enough time to spend with Him, then something is really wrong. Even spending time in service to the Church, if it is not rightly ordered, can do more harm than good, both to me and those I am trying to serve. 

Sometimes, we are faced with situations in which we are asked to do or give something that requires us to take from something else: this is the poverty of 'yes'. In saying 'yes,' there is a sense of abandonment, as the realization of the sacrifice such a charge will require sets in, but even in the knowledge that challenges will come, there is a certainty and a peace that saying 'yes' is absolutely the right thing. Other times, we are presented with something that, while inherently good and entirely desirable, we must decline for a greater reason: this is the poverty of 'no'. It becomes apparent in these times that no matter how beautiful or worthwhile any invitation is, if it is not in God's plan for us, we have no choice but to say 'no' for the sake of our best interest. This we know in the deepest parts of our hearts. Both of these 'poverties' require a dying to self, because often the answer God calls us to give is the opposite of what we would like to say, but this type of poverty, of obedience perhaps to His will, is purifying and true. 

In taking these ponderings to heart, I am approaching my time this fall in a new light. Cutting the ties that bind me to a busier-than-healthy schedule and re-evaluating just how God is calling me to spend the 168 hours He gives me each week, I hope to enjoy a slower pace and bring the spirit of poverty to my hourly allocations. 
Maybe I won't even need my watch anymore! 

Not that I have a choice. 

It stopped working today, raising me to the ranks Julie has been reeling in since March. It's just one more experience to add to the journey, and well, I was starting to get a tan line. God's timing is always quite perfect, and my watch wasn't actually doing a very good job of revealing that to me anyway. 

Does any of this even make sense to anyone other than me? 

I'll save the rest of my thoughts on poverty and food for another day. That tangent is still being formulated in my head. 


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