Sunday, May 17, 2009

ALSH #14: The Gift of Time

Archbishop IAKOVOS (1911-2005), former primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America

As Christians, we have been handed the gift of time for one major purpose: to create new things in our lives for God. Yet too often, like everyone else in our secularized culture, we don't see time as an opportunity for creation. Rather, we see it as something to be measured mechanically or used up by a clock.

But from God's perspective, time is never self-limiting, never measured entirely by minutes, hours and days. Instead, time always has an eternal dimension. St. John underlines this fact when he says in the first verse of his Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word..."Those are frightening words because they emphasize to us our limited natures in the face of God's limitless reality.

Who, after all, can locate "the beginning"? Yet as human beings, we're always trying to understand, define, and control our time. In our own little worlds, we try to be gods who know exactly when something is going to happen, when it will begin, and when it will end. But when we fall into this trap, we become the slaves rather than the masters of time.

Too often, we fail to put God in charge of our daily schedules and our various responsibilities, so that he can show us how best to use creatively the time he's given us. We may devote many minutes and sometimes hours to setting up our schedules and filling in our daily appointment diaries. For a time, we may even seem to get things organized in this way. But in fact, more often than not, we lose our creative edge in the process.

Our time, then, is not a mere succession of events. It's not a series of projects and responsibilities that we are supposed to compress and streamline according to some human preconceptions. Nor is time a vacuum to be filled by any sort of whimsical activity. Rather, time is God's gift to us. It is he - not others or ourselves - who has the authority to determine how the minutes and hours of our lives can be best used.

If we allow others to dictate the way our time will be used, or if we try to assume complete control over the schedule ourselves, we're sure to face frustration and failure. But if we allow God to help us "redeem the time," as St Paul puts it in his letter to the Colossians, we'll find ourselves becoming more creative. We'll also experience greater satisfaction as we move through our daily tasks; and we'll find the quality of our work improving.

In short, we must become more aware of God's eternal presence in every hour and minute of each day. That's the true test of time in our lives.

Archbishop Iakovos, Faith For A Lifetime: A Spiritual Journey (New York, Doubleday, 1988), 84, 87.

1 comment:

Isabel said...

This is a deep message I will be re-reading for sure. Time has been on my mind a lot lately, and the use of it.

We all ask "What is my purpose here", which might be better phrased "What is my purpose here and now". It is so easy to get distracted by the calendar, and life's demands. For parents and for workers away from home it seems we have "no time". But even that time we promised to someone else, or that is required by life's necessities (eat, sleep, so on) is really "our" time. As pointed out in the article, this is all a gift from God. Best to ask Him how he wants us to use it. Excuse me while I go do that...