“Prayer is the daily practice of switching lenses: it is the regular practice of adapting our vision more and more to that of Jesus.”
We must slow down to a human tempo and we’ll begin to have time to listen. . . . But for this we have to experience time in a new way. . . . The reason why we don’t take time is a feeling that we have to keep moving. This is a real sickness. Today time is a commodity, and for each one of us time is mortgaged. . . . We must approach the whole idea of time in a new way. We live in the fullness of time. Every moment is God’s own good time, his kairos. —Thomas Merton
My times are in your hand. (Psalm 31:15)
We have always cherished the last days of summer as they creep toward the beginning of the new school year. The long days and long, drooping evenings will soon, we know, be behind us. Perhaps there will be a fire in the backyard in the new fire pit we set up, hoping to encourage kids and their friends to linger there while toasting marshmallows and suspending, for a while, the tittering that happens over their devices. Perhaps we will make a run to the local Dairy Queen and have soft-serve, allowing the frozen swirls to drip lightly on our knuckles as we quickly slurp up the melt where the ice cream meets the cone. Or perhaps we are emptying the van after a day trip to the beach; there is sand on boogie boards and on our feet as we scramble to rinse ourselves off and unload the car, hoping to catch a quick shower before cozying up for a movie night at home or at the drive-in.
There is a sense of urgency to this relaxation, paradoxically: everyone knows that within a few days the schedule will begin again, with early morning wake-ups, gathering of school supplies, fussing over appearances, (hopefully) eating breakfast, and heading out the door. Dad will head one way with two of the kids, and Mom will head a different way with child number three. Then both will be off to work, negotiating who is picking up whom and which child will be going which way with which friend before returning home for homework and dinner.
There are times, and there are seasons. Most of us understand the difference between the daily grind and the rich times of which memories are made, and most of us understand that memories can be made within a few hours and last a lifetime. Most of us, too, wrestle with a desire to make meaningful memories and the practical reality that there is a lot that needs to get done. We understand that reclaiming family time is about both reclaiming our family and reclaiming time itself.
Today we live in a world governed, in many ways, by technology—that is, by the things we human beings make: electric lights that extend our working hours, computers and phones that tie us to the office 24/7/365, cars that extend the distance we travel on a daily basis, TVs that entertain us while we retreat from public spaces, and so on. We have become disconnected from nature and from one another, and we often collapse into the craving that arises from the experience of our most immediate desires.
For us, time is remarkably plastic, because in many ways, we can manipulate it and strangle it, monetize it and sell it. On the other hand, we can cultivate it and share it, discern how to use it well to serve greater goods. Our control over time comes with a high cost: by using it badly, we can experience alienation and loneliness, but by using it well, we can experience connection and a sense of mission in the world.
The ancient Israelite theology of time shared some similarity with that of the Greeks and Romans in that time was a constant in the order of creation and governed by the hand of God. … [T]he notion of Sabbath emerged in Israel as a result of recognizing God’s rest after creation. Sabbath called for a community response to a larger reality—that everything in the cosmos, including time itself, came from God and was ordered to God’s purposes.
Today we may retain some of that sensibility, especially during times of feast. Celebrations such as … [Christmas, Holy Week and Easter, even the Eucharist] remind us that time is not only about getting things accomplished and marking days off a calendar; it is also about seeking the Lord’s hand active in creation, if we but pause long enough to recall that he died in order to redeem it.
The biblical writers describe time in ways that can inform the way we approach family life. Lest we get too caught up in daily chores, the texts remind us that the Lord has established time itself (Genesis 1:14); he has ordered the nations and their time upon the earth (Daniel 2:21; Acts 17:26).
The Lord’s designs prevail (Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 46:10) because he is not limited by time (Psalm 90:4), nor does he grow tired (Isaiah 40:28). He will bring about the consummation of history when Jesus returns (Ephesians 1:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:15). He is the “Alpha and the Omega, … the beginning and the end” of all time (Revelation 22:13).
Time is not only about a steady march toward adulthood and old age, it is also about taking advantage of the limited opportunities we have to experience a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. It is about inviting the Lord to act in our daily lives, transforming them into opportunities to see the good, true, and beautiful amidst the mundane.
It is about stepping out of the usual chronology of our days—that is, whatever appears in our schedule books or calendaring apps—and making room for spontaneity, discovery, and wonder.…
[It] is about freedom: the freedom to live in God’s time rather than the packed, hurried time of our own making. God’s time is, to use an allegory, what existed in the garden of Eden: a place of serene receptivity to the good things that God has made. Seeking the propitious moment is about being willing to suspend ourselves from whatever the immediate objective of the moment is—getting ready for school, finishing a project, doing chores—and simply attending to the revelation of the moment.
There are many lenses we can use to look at the world, but the important practice is switching out the one we use most often—utility. Prayer is the daily practice of switching lenses: it is the regular practice of adapting our vision more and more to that of Jesus. …It is about daily attempts to switch out the lens of utility for lenses more apt for seeing the way God sees.…
What is necessary for such prayer time is not necessarily time off of work or vacations away from home. Rather, what is necessary is contemplation, which opens us to the possibility of finding favorable moments throughout the day. And now is an opportune time.
—excerpted from Reclaiming Family Time: A Guide to Slowing Down and Savoring the Gift of One Another, by Tim & Sue Muldoon The Word Among Us Press, Available at wau.org/books