In summer, we think life will be slower. We'll have time for leisure, for resting, for dozing in dappled sunlight while our days pass at a snail's pace. Yeah ... don't we wish!
Most days feel hurried, and the more I plan and schedule and micro-manage, the more hurried they are. You can pack a lot in a day, if you force it hard enough -- days that start at 5:30 with a frantic rush for breakfast, dashing to work and school, forgetting lunches and sports equipment, shoveling down lunch without thinking, checking all the necessities off the to-do-list, running rudely into the grocery store, throwing some food on the table, screaming over homework, trying to unwind with a movie, staying up too late to finish it, crashing into bed. Starting it again.
No thank you.
So you quit your job and stay home and cram your day with different crammables, but it's no better. Tell me: how do you get one of those rare days that feel so good, the day when hours pass at their proper ticking slowness, when you do accomplish some things, but even those feel deliciously meaningful? Days that keep their cohesion and wholeness, and thus their beauty?
I asked some wise friends. Here's what they said:
"Long ago I stopped volunteer work that took time out of each week which freed a lot of time .... I take care of me and mine and don't apologize. I have plenty of work to keep me busy and don't get caught up in a lot of drama. I think it's "drama" that sucks time and energy; having a routine keeps me better focused .... Experience has taught me when I don't have morning devotions, my day goes awry and I don't respond/react well to stress."
Another friend: "For me time goes much slower when I stay home without any plans. Piddling around slows time down a lot. So, I think the key is in the 'unplanning'. When I'm bound by a clock telling me what to do, when to go, when to eat, etc., then time seems like an enemy. Personality also plays a large part in how we perceive time. I like lots of introspection and quiet. My daughter likes to always be on the go with noise. A quiet day at home is a nightmare to her as is a day full of shopping and running around to me."
Another friend: "I am fascinated with time, starting with the theology of it. It annoys me when people say that time is something we made up, or that it's a human construct, because God is eternal. He may be outside of time but he put us in it and this is where He wants us to live, so it's good for us. As for slowing it down, good luck on that! ... Hurrying does seem to speed things up, doesn't it? I had a lovely day on Saturday getting ready for [a] party on Sunday. I had given myself plenty of time to accomplish the baking and cleaning, so it seemed like a happy and calm day and time was just part of it, not my enemy."
I hope they don't mind my quoting them. For many introverts, staying home, attending to family duties, not over-committing, starting the day with a calm, meditative activity like Scripture-reading, and doing some things but not too much -- this works well. If I 'unplan,' as one friend recommends though, my day seems to unravel, and I'm open to all kinds of mischief and temptations. I need a loose plan (not dictated by a clock) that keeps me generally at home. This is certainly not some type of anti-feminist mantra I'm spouting; it's simply an observation that introverts often prefer their private space (home) to being with strangers in crowds (work or culture).
That small handful of activities at home need to be enjoyable, creative, pleasurable. We call them hobbies, but they can be lucrative too. Artistic pursuits, which smack so wonderfully of the New Earth and eternity, don't pay very well, but they give more satisfaction and pleasure in the soul.
I like that one friend mentioned the theology of time, because this is the heart of the issue. Some say that time is only for this fallen Earth, that in eternity there will be no time. What in the world does that mean? Is there no cause-and-effect relationship to events in Heaven? Are events jumbled in a chaotic mass that is not linear? That concept makes no sense to me, I find no support at all for it in Scripture, and I flatly reject it. God made us human, always. God designed us to live on an Earth, always. Being creatures that live in TIME is essential to that design. We will always have yesterday, today, tomorrow.
Perhaps what people mean is that there's no ticking clock on that New Earth ... no end ... no death. How would your life be different if you knew there were no end to it? (Everyone should stop and answer that question practically.) If you had forever? Would that take the rush out of things? Would it restore peace and calm to your efforts? Would you enjoy the process of each activity instead of the tyranny of a deadline? How would you function without any DEADlines? (haha!)
There's a theology of time. In God's perfect design, there's no death, and thus no hurry. On the New Earth, if you don't get around to it this century, you can do it in the next. Oh, we avoid thinking about the pervasive effect of that final hour on our everyday actions, don't we? But it taints every moment. We squeeze too much into our days because have a limited number. That's the effect of death.
Perhaps the people who seem most content, most unruffled in this life, are the ones who see the unity between this world and the next. They see that the death-moment is not an end -- as Jesus says repeatedly, we don't perish. There is much we can do here in this life that affects the next life. It is truly just one, single life. Begin relationships here, continue them there. Work on collecting meaningful treasures here, enjoy them there. Be born spiritually here, live eternally there. It's not two lives; it's one single life, in two locations. Perhaps if we lived as if we weren't going to die, we would find that beautiful daily existence we desire.
(Oh -- brownie points to anybody who can tell me where that quote in the title comes from!)