Are We Too Busy to Truly Live?
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This week, Moments and Days author Michelle Van Loon invites you into an exploration of God’s gift of time. How can we live with eternity in mind? How can we combat a stressed, “to-do list” mentality and embrace a different posture toward each day? What role might holidays (holy days) and habits play in shaping the person we are becoming? This week, reflect on these and other critical themes using these five devotional readings.
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
When my three kids were young, older folks would wax nostalgic to me about the swiftness with which the baby and toddler years zoomed past. Back then, when I read the words of Psalm 90:12, I conflated their meaning with the sweetly nostalgic words of Ruth Hulburt Hamilton’s poem about savoring time with little ones:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait `til tomorrow
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
If you asked me then what I understood this Bible verse to mean, I probably would have said something like, “You only live once so stop and smell the roses.” While there is truth in those folksy sentiments, they do not truly capture the heart-cry of this prayer.
The very act of asking God to teach us about the brevity of our lives is how we learn to surrender our plans, dreams, and goals to God. It invites an eternal perspective on our temporal plans—a perspective that cultivates wisdom in our lives as we face each day’s challenges, no matter which stage of life we inhabit.
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
For the last few weeks of my mom’s life, I was her round-the-clock caregiver. Though I had some nursing help for a few hours each day, I was responsible for tending to her physical needs and doing all I could to support her emotionally and spiritually as her body succumbed to stage 4 breast cancer. I experienced unexpected moments of deep joy during those weeks as my mom found peace with God—but the days (and long, long nights) were filled to overflowing with sorrow and exhaustion.
I discovered that the basic spiritual disciplines I’d been practicing for years (such as prayer, worship, Bible reading, and service) had prepared me to enter the valley of the shadow of death in the companionship of my Good Shepherd. Even when the darkness of depression made that valley very dark indeed in the months following my mom’s funeral, I was sustained by the goodness I’d known in my life that I learned through practicing disciplines to follow him daily.
It can be a temptation to treat spiritual disciplines as a set of tasks we must accomplish. Completion of those tasks, then, becomes the temporal way in which we measure our spiritual growth. It is important to remember they are not ends in themselves, but are imprinted with eternity itself. They are the way in which we learn of him so that we can follow him everywhere—even when the journey takes us into the valley of the shadow of death.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” (Revelation 1:8)
Throughout Scripture, we are reminded that our eternal God created us to live in finite time. Yet as created beings, Jesus came to invite us into eternal life together with him. It’s mind-blowing—and can shift the way we live in the here and now.
In Greek, there are two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to sequential time: one o’clock, two o’clock, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. You can see the root chronos in the word chronological. It is a quantitative way of describing time. It is how we measure our moments and days.
Kairos, on the other hand, is a qualitative way of expressing time. It describes an opportune moment or an appointed time for an action to take place. The word kairos is used eighty-one times in the New Testament. For example, when Jesus told his disciples to head to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles without him, it was an expression of kairos time: “Now is not the right time [kairos] for me to go, but you can go anytime” (John 7:6). It is a way of speaking about eternal “time.”
Hebrews 13:8 describes Jesus in kairos terms: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He experienced fully in the flesh what it was to live as part of the created order, existing within time and space. Yet simultaneously, because of his divine, eternal nature, his sacrifice is not limited to one particular place and moment: “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10). He is where time and eternity intersect. At any given moment of even the most ordinary day, those who know Jesus are experiencing eternal life—right here, right now.
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:31–34)
Sometimes at 3:00 A.M., I wake in the darkness and struggle to find my way back to a place of trust in God. In the stillness of that hour, my wants and worries are amplified. If I flip on the TV, the commercials airing in the dead of night offer a host of treatments promising to bring relief to harried insomniacs: bankruptcy lawyers who can fix financial woes, sleeping aids to silence restless minds, or whole life insurance policies to provide for families. (Oh, and lots of $19.95 kitschy cooking aids!)
I’m often awake in the middle of the night thanks to my midlife physiology. I remind myself that the words of Jesus are just as true at 3:00 A.M. as they are at 3:00 P.M., when the light of day and a busy schedule turn down the volume on the temporal worries that seem so permanent, so urgent in the darkness.
Jesus told his followers that they could trust his Father to provide just what they needed. Seeking to live under his loving rule means I will actively pursue his ways. When I am awake in the dark and my imagination kicks into overdrive, tempted to spin negative scenarios out of all of my worries, Jesus is there. He is not calling me to pep-talk myself through my worries in his name, but to turn to him just as I am.
“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–7)
Though not especially religious, my Jewish parents still observed some of the major Jewish holidays like Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. It was a way in which they hoped to pass down awareness of both heritage and identity to their children.
After I came to faith in Jesus the Jewish Messiah in my teens, I began to get a sense of the “why” behind God’s command in Leviticus 23 to the Hebrew people to observe a weekly Sabbath and six additional yearly festivals. As a community, these God-appointed times called them to recount and participate in his story about who he is and who they were called to be from generation to generation.
In our plugged-in, 24/7/365 world drumming to an insistent, unvarying beat every single day, we are prone to miss the cadence of eternity. As I studied the story of the Jewish festal calendar found in Scripture and learned the history of the church-year calendar that emerged from it, I was struck by the way in which God has invited us into rhythms of restoration and celebration. Even better, I’ve discovered that participating in holy days is a way in which multigenerational discipleship happens naturally. In addition, it infuses our everydays with meaning beyond our own personal calendars and agendas. Eternity, then, shapes our experience in real time. This isn’t a recommendation for another “to do” on your list, but an invitation to take a step toward considering a more intentional approach to your moments and days.
Michelle Van Loon is the author of Moments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith (NavPress). She’s written four books and has been a regular contributor to CT’s Her.meneutics blog. Connect with her at MichelleVanLoon.com, via Facebook, or on Twitter.
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Are We Too Busy to Truly Live?
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