I’m sure you have either heard someone say, “I just don’t have the time to do that” or you have said it to someone who wanted to engage you in some type of project or ministry. Maryann McKibben Dana asks, “How do we discern what is ours to do in a world crammed with options for our time?”
People are overwhelmed and stressed out, torn by family responsibilities, careers, information overload, and more, and that overwork takes its toll. Did you know…it is estimated that the average high-school student today carries as much anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s? Even people who are retired, who left paid work a long time ago, feel overwhelmed by the pace of life.
So then, what does it mean to be good stewards of our time? We want to use our time well, and there are countless tools to help us manage our time and our lives. These tools allow us to quiet the noise and to offload the tasks we are liable to forget, and then we don’t have to worry about them. The reality is these are tools for time management but not stewardship of time. They will not lead us into faithful, integrated lives.
The tricky aspect of stewardship of time, as opposed to other aspects of our lives, is this: we never really know how much time we have. It can be gone in an instant. This life is a gift God has given to each of us, and how we live our lives is a reflection of the value we have placed on what God has entrusted to us. Often, we measure that value by filling all of our time with busyness, and our “busyness” is the justification we use to turn down opportunities to be of service to others and to be about what God’s work.
For years, people have talked about how to find the elusive work/life balance. Interestingly, the language is changing and people are seeking other metaphors to describe the way we use our time. Dana suggests that life is too fluid and chaotic for true balance. Instead, she says she is seeking to be “present.” When it’s time to work, she works, and when it’s time to play, she does her best not to think about work. Ecclesiastes 3 is a helpful text to consider in understanding stewardship of time. There is a time for every purpose under heaven. Our primary work, then, is always to discern what time it is.
If we have particular challenges in discerning “what time it is,” then we also have rich resources that guide us in this work. A stewardship of time is well served by appreciating Sabbath, chronos, and Kairos; respecting our calendars; and furthering our sense of scale. Most Christians associate Sabbath with the story of creation. God made the universe and everything in it, and then rested for a time. God did it, so we do it. The rhythm is established. What does Sabbath look like for us?
The Sabbath day is a gift for the Jewish people because it reminds them of the time when they were captive to Pharaoh’s command, when their ancestors were forced to work, not six days a week, but every day of the week. There was no freedom, no relief, just the constant expectations of doing more, producing more, and building more. The Jewish observance of Sabbath is more than a pause. It is an exclamation to the world: “We are not slaves to the empire anymore!”
Can you imagine what it might feel like to be able to wake up on any given day and be able to exclaim, “I am no longer a slave to all the busyness that has claimed my life?” What would need to occur for you to truly experience that feeling? Chronos is clock time, measured in minutes, hours, and days. Kairos is holy time – God’s time. Kairos is the time reserved for God, the time when we allow Christ to transform our lives. It makes me wonder how a fuller exploration of chronos and kairos might inform our stewardship of time.
As you journey through this Lenten season, I hope you will find time to reflect on the kairos moments of our lives, and give thought to these questions:
- What do we give our time to? Do we find time for spiritual practices? Are we setting aside time for family, friends, and rest?
- Are we minding our margins? Do we pack our calendars full, or do we provide space in our schedule for the holy interruptions that occur?
- Are we attentive to the seasons? Do we spend time reflecting on the season of life in which we live, or are we waiting in anticipation for the next big season?
As Stewardship leaders in our congregations, we are called to lead them to be good stewards of their time, to listen for God’s call, and to respond as faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted into our care.
POJ Associate for Stewardship
*Excerpt taken from “Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship.”