Redeeming Time

It’s a new year. Resolutions have been made. Best wishes have been passed on to friends and loved ones. We even added in a leap second into last year to even out time very precisely.

We care quite a lot about time. We like to measure it carefully, divide it into various bits and pieces, celebrate or mourn its passing, and discuss and criticize the way we use it. All in all, time is very important to the way we live in the year 2006 in America.

I am pretty time conscious. I have generally worn a watch, and I sometimes make people nervous by looking at it as a conversation goes by. They think I’m in a hurry or have an appointment somewhere, or that I’m bored and would like to see the present activity end. A few months ago, the battery ran out and I decided to try not wearing a watch. You might think this was a tremendous hardship, but I’m normally in front of my computer, which has a clock displayed, or I’m in the car, which has a clock. In the house, there are clocks in every room. I can’t recall more than once or twice in the last several months when I’ve had to ask someone to look at their watch for me.

Last night I attended a watch night service at my church (Gonzalez United Methodist Church). It started at 11 PM, and was to go until just after midnight. I wasn’t wearing a watch, as has become my habit. I was able to enjoy the service thoroughly, and then when the leader put on a CD of a bell choir over the church speakers, and told us it was now 2006, I was able to be in the moment, be surprised by it. But it didn’t take up my time before it got there. During that time I was able to think about the time of praise, prayer, and meditation that had been planned.

As I was thinking about this post, I was reminded of a passage of scripture. As often happens to me, I remembered the scripture as I’d memorized it in the King James Version as a child: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). It might be better translated as “Make good use of every day, because these are bad times.”

How are we to make good use of every day?

Paul has some suggestions. In the verse before, he says not to be unwise, but to be wise. Sounds like a good idea. Some of my Spirit-led friends seem to think that being Spirit-led and applying wisdom are contradictory. “Don’t think about what you’re doing,” they say, “just go with the flow of the Spirit!” And that idea has some merit to it. We can kill things just by thinking them to death.

But at the same time thinking about how we use our time is not contradictory to knowing God’s will. In the verse following, verse 17, Paul says, “Because of this don’t be foolish, but understand what God’s will is.” Wisdom and thinking in the use of our time is important, and is one of the ways we know God’s will.

I think that in order to really “redeem the time” we need to get both elements involved. Both the open, free, unfettered leading of the Spirit, including our dreaming, visioning, imagining, and even resting, and at the same time our understanding and wisdom.

Let me illustrate with two roles I play–writer and editor. These are hard to combine. You’ll find errors in many of these posts, because I don’t have someone else to proof-read them. Writing requires that free flow, quantity production, that gets words and hopefully thoughts on paper. If I spend too much time thinking about each word and about the whole document I’m trying to produce, I will produce a stilted and boring manuscript.

When I edit, I have to change modes. (This is very difficult to do with your own work!) I look at each word asking whether it is accomplishing what it is supposed to accomplish. Is it necessary? Is it sufficient? The results of the free-flow of my imagination may be curtailed by an editorial hand, and usually will be better for that change.

Balancing these out can be an interesting exercise. But to “redeem the time” we need to do both. In our lives, we need to have vision, dreams, and imagination. We need to have rest and relaxation. We also need to have boundaries, goals, schedules, and other means of dividing our time into manageable portions.

Think about your life this new year’s day. Are you overbalanced in either direction? What would make your life better, more fulfilling, more in line with God’s will? Consider altering the balance a bit one way or the other.

Redeem the time.

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