On Time

This week we welcome guest blogger Keith Bertelsen, a member of UUMC.

I was planning on writing an essay about our Lenten journey, #40bagsin40days, where we eliminate 40 bags of "stuff" from our lives. I had some really great ideas on how I could connect it to quotes from movies and books. I was going to delve into how ultimately, everything ends up being about time. And then, as it turned out, I spent the time I would have spent on the essay with my family instead. So it changed to this.

Time is, arguably, our most precious resource. It can't be captured or bought. It slips through our fingers no matter how tightly we hold on to it. We each get a finite number of moments on this Earth, though we don't always know what that number will be. How do we measure it? How do we spend it?

Our days are filled with temporal clutter. We waste the hours away mindlessly watching television or surfing the Internet. We buy things we don't need, and then spend time every so often maintaining and cleaning them. We pull out our phones in every spare moment, checking to see if we've missed anything on Facebook. We consume, consume, consume, gorging ourselves on media and notifications and music and...

And at the end of the day, we wonder where the time went.

This is not to condemn entertainment. God created us to enjoy art. But God also created us to *create* art. God created us to spend time in relationship and fellowship with one another. When we just live our lives on autopilot, letting the normal things clutter our time, we do a disservice to the gifts and talents God has given us.

What I am suggesting is that we live our lives mindfully. That instead of watching television for hours because it happens to be on, we consciously choose to watch this show at this time, and then consciously choose to do something else. That we consciously consider and even sometimes decline requests for our time—be they another task for our jobs, or going to see a movie that we probably won't like, or a million Facebook notifications that ping every few moments. We can do those things on occasion, yes, but let us do them intentionally and consciously, instead of by default. Let us also prune those activities out of our lives that don't belong, and spend that time instead doing something that does: writing a novel, hanging out with friends, playing a board game with family, or even simply sitting in contemplative or prayerful silence.

I admit that this is something I need to work on, as well. I stlil have too many blogs I read regularly, or too many things on my phone that distract me. It is difficult to say "no", both to people that want our attention, and to the many, many things in our contemporary culture that demand our gaze. But I still have my bags this Lent: one for "webcomics I don't like anymore but check daily out of sheer momentum"; one for "that 'free' game that I play even when it's inappropriate"; and one for "checking my work e-mail at home"; among others.

Instead, I plan on using the time freed up from to enjoy my children and their wonder at the world. To work on creating art. To read the book that's been sitting half-read on my nightstand since December. To get more sleep. To pray. And sometimes, to allow myself to simply exist. Maybe not all at once, and I must be careful to not let any of these then fall into bad habits of wasted time. But I want to more often choose the things that enrich me and my family, and to less often choose the thing that ends up being time I wish I'd spent doing something else.

We live in a noisy, busy world that demands all too much of our time. May we dole out those moments we do have with intention, living without the temporal clutter of the world, but instead in peace and love.