The Value of Time
By Rev. Canon Stewart Murray, Incumbent at St. Barnabas, Ottawa
(This article appears in the June edition of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Diocese of Ottawa.)
Summertime is fast approaching, and I remember very vividly the excitement of the last day of school and the preparations for heading off to the cottage. Summer was a time of freedom from school and routines, and a time for adventure and fun at the beach. As a child, the days of summer seemed endless; there was never quite enough time to fit in everything we imagined we wanted to do.
It is only as I grew older, with summer jobs and less time at the cottage, that endless days of summer became just eight short weeks between school terms. This experience caused me to reflect on the idea of time and how we understand how it shapes our way of living.
Time is an interesting idea or construct. It is a human creation, initially developed to mark the passage of sun, moon, and stars. The first timekeepers were used to note the times of planting, of harvesting, and of religious festivals. In our culture today, we do not have the gentle “rhythm of the seasons” understanding of time, but rather we experience the tyranny of time. The demands of modern life, the need to work and love in a wired 24/7 world and the constant demands placed on us by ourselves and others, mean that a constantly heard theme is there is never enough time. In a sense, we have become slaves of time.
Time can also be experienced very differently, depending on the situation. When we are waiting for someone, or something, time often seems to slow down and the numbers of the clock never seem to move. At other times, perhaps when we are with someone we love or are enjoying indulging in one of our passions, the hours can disappear in what seems just a moment.
As Christians, the challenge is to find a balance that allows us to use time in creative and Christ- centred ways. St. Teresa of Calcutta, in her wisdom, has said, “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I do know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will NOT ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ Rather, he will ask, ‘How much LOVE did you put into what you did?’” The way of love, which is at the heart of the Gospel, is for me a key to how to approach the use of time. We cannot make more time, but we can use our time in ways that reflect the values we strive to live.
The first step is to look over your day and see how you are using time. If you are like myself, you soon realize that so much of what I spend my time on is unplanned and decided by outside demands. The next step is to decide what are priorities for you. Is it to spend more time with your family and close friends? As someone once told me, when we are dying we will not be regretting that we did not spend more time at the office! Work is of course important – we have to provide for our families – but time with family, especially with our children and grandchildren and those we love, is more important.
Working together, playing together, talking and praying together, build strong marriages and families, and confident and loving children. So the house gets a little messy, and the laundry piles up, but the time you have with the family will be a lasting treasure.
Life goes by too quickly and we may not have time to spend with our parents before they are gone, or with our children before they grow up.
It is also important to take time for yourself, to give yourself some ‘me time’. It is too easy to lose ourselves in work, or our full agendas, so that we have no time simply to pause and think. A simple walk every day, or time set aside each day for a quiet cup of tea, can bring a sense of peace in the midst of our busy lives.
Finally, to take time for prayer and worship as a family, with our parish communities, will rovide an anchor for our lives.
How we use the gift of time will reflect what we value most in life.