Time is making a comeback.
Thirteen months ago, time loosened its grip on us. Appointments fell off our calendars. Everyone went home.
Before the pandemic, my mornings, like so many others, were ruled by the clock. Things were timed to the minute. I got up at 4:44. I don’t know why it wasn’t 4:40 or 4:45, but 4:44 seemed to work. I had enough time to have a leisurely breakfast and read the papers. But I knew that if I didn’t start getting ready for work at 5:28, I would need to rush. By 5:53, I was out the door. The walk to the bus stop took just a few minutes, and I timed it so I would arrive a minute or so before the bus pulled up at 6:01.
In houses everywhere people were doing similar calculations: how much time had to be factored for traffic; what were the kids’ schedules that day; who needed to be first in the shower, or last out the door? Every house had its own choreography.
Things changed. And things changed for everyone. For me – buoyed by privileges too many to count – things just got weird: working from home, crossing activities off the calendar. For others, the pandemic brought changes that weren’t just weird, they were catastrophic: the loss of a job, sudden illness, navigating at-home school, bearing the burden of “essential worker,” stuck inside a senior residence day after day, after day, after day, with no visitors, and so much else.
Thirteen months later, there are vaccines. Families are gathering again. We’re venturing out to restaurants. We’re booking trips. We’re hugging our grandkids. The machinery of time is revving its engines.
And here, just before it all comes roaring back – and it will – is it possible that we could just for a moment, take a breath, and think about how it could be different?
Last April, a little ahead of schedule as it turns out, Julio Vincent Gambuto, in a commentary in Cognoscenti, wrote in anticipation of the post-pandemic world. We will want to feel good again, he said, and the forces of global commerce stand ready to sell us everything we need to get that good feeling going. “Get ready, my friends,” Gambuto wrote, “What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels. There will be an all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw.”
Well, how right he was about that. Gambuto’s impassioned plea was written in April of 2020; before George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight, on a Minneapolis street, by a Minneapolis police officer; before the civil unrest; before the 2020 election; before the storming of the national Capitol; before 3 million people across the world died from COVID-19.
For sure, we’d like to say that we’re better. Stronger. More determined to put our time to good use – to re-commit ourselves to undoing systemic racism, and healing our battered planet. But mostly, right now, we’re just tired. We are just so over it. How easy, how tempting, how beguiling it would be just to write off 2020, and get back out there – seeing the people we love, catching up with friends, doing the fun stuff we’ve been longing to do. No more masks. No more painful reckonings. Enough already with the bad news!
But we saw what we saw. We’re not going back to the way things were before – as if that were ever an option. These thirteen months have changed all of us, in ways we can’t yet begin to comprehend.
And here’s the thing: God is the ruler and redeemer of time. For the last nine years or so, I’ve been worshipping at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church, where our pastor, Kara Root, has been steadily, calmly, insistently teaching and preaching about Sabbath time. We belong to God, she reminds us, and so, our time is not ruled by the clock, but by the eternal realm of love. This is God’s world. God is working in time, through time, to bring hope and healing, always.
Busyness is not the same as fullness, Kara tells us. A busy, packed life does not mean a life of depth and joy. And we have more choice than we most often acknowledge. Rest is an antidote available to us. When in doubt, rest. Rest preemptively. Let time hold you, instead of wrestling it into submission.
God is here, in this moment, right now. Be here too, Sabbath invites. There’s lots more to be said about Sabbath practice. Here’s a place to start. For now, though, here’s my question:
Having been taken out of our routines, how will we step back in? What will you do differently, how will you be differently, having seen what you’ve seen, and knowing now what you know?
Soon enough, we’ll all be busy – probably, despite our best intentions, we might find ourselves being too busy again. Busy happens. Even so, we have a chance right now. We have this moment. To decide again for grace. To remember who holds this world, and who we share it with. To lean into love.
What changes, big or small, would you like to make in order to live more aligned with the way of love? What practices will strengthen your spirit? What callings will you answer? What old habits and burdens can you set down? How is God’s gentle, wild spirit beckoning to you?
Here are a few examples that surfaced during a recent workshop that Kara and I did together for Mount Olivet Conference and Retreat Center:
- I will remind myself that doing just a few things is the kindest way to navigate change
- I will notice when my shoulders get tight
- I will take time before saying yes or no to any commitment
- I will turn off screens an hour before bed
Einstein is reputed to have said that time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once. True enough, but time is also a gift given by the one who came into time in order to redeem our lives. In this new time that is unfolding before us, can we allow ourselves to receive the gift, and respond in wonder, gratitude, and kindness?
Rev. Kara K. Root and Rev. Lisa Larges serve together as pastor and parish associate of Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church (Minneapolis, MN), a community known for its creative practices of hospitality and Sabbath-keeping. Kara also is the author of the forthcoming book, The Deepest Belonging: A Story about Discovering Where God Meets Us (Fortress Press, 2021). Lisa also works at the MN State Services for the Blind and is the former director of That All May Freely Serve.