It’s an interesting phrase: “I’m having the time of my life!” From a faint remembrance of NT Greek, I can identify that as “ kairos”time, “wonder-full time,” as in Jesus came “in the fullness of time.”(Galatians 4:4)
These “kairos” moments of wonder/awe/astonishment are huge surprises of joy that occasionally wake us up to abundant life. But they are occasional. We can’t produce them, plan them, manipulate them. Like accidents, they just happen. Yes, our intentional anticipation makes us more “accident prone.” But “kairos” moments remain gifts, not achievements.
So, let’s think about what we do have some control over — “chronos,” the other kind of time, as in clock time, calendar time. This we have to work with: our presence in time. “I’ll stop by at 4:00” . . .”Let’s make it at your place at 11:00” . . .”Does 7:30 work for you?”
Other professionals have tangible tools to yield, drugs to dispense, documents full of rules to follow. Much of their work is scheduled; most of our work we schedule. Their day is largely structured; we, for the most part, structure our day. Most leaders report their use of time. We don’t.
I felt the difference when I moved from being a director of a hospital department to becoming a pastor again. Oh, the freedom to plan my day! But soon I was feeling, oh, the burden of this freedom, so many demands and so little time. My to-do list, created in the morning, ended the day with maybe half of the resolves checked off.
e.e. cummings has a word for us: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best to make you somebody else, means to fight the hardest human battle ever and to never stop fighting.”
If that’s a human dilemma, and I think it is, then how much more this is true for us. We don’t have one contract about our use of time with an employer; we have multiple, ill-defined contracts with a congregation full of employers. And if our primary offering is our “presence in time,” then congregants rightfully have claims on our calendar. Their personal needs and the needs of the institution fill our schedule. Given the nature of our work, not from some evil intent, much of each day is spent responding to needs as they arise. Before we know it, we can feel defined by others, or in cummings’ words, these expectations can “make you somebody else.”
I’m interested in how you handle this freedom. As for me, this one practice helped me most in this “fight” to maintain the final word of self-identity: working at self-definition at the front end of a day or season or year.
My day was, and is, different when I can take at least an hour in the morning to remember. I turn to readings and prayer that call me back to the one mirror that reflects my deepest identity, as Abba’s beloved, as a follower of Jesus, as a graced channel of Spirit. I assume that the day will bring other mirrors that reflect lesser identities, so I try to start the day “rooted and grounded” in the Love/Life much larger than me. Then I look at the calendar’s day and week with this priority in place. What matters most about this day? How will I align myself with this Spirit today?
Also, periodically, usually every month or so, with calendar in hand, I would look at my investment of time through these questions: What does the congregation at this point in time most need from my leadership? And, what am I passionate to give?
And finally, once a year during vacation, Janice and I would review the next year, first penciling in a week of renewal for each one of us, then a week for us, and finally at least a week for the family.
I’m not discounting the truth that much of ministry is in the unplanned interruptions. To the contrary, because of this truth I attempted the ever redefining of calling, values and core identity at the front end of the day or season or year. This attention to “chronos” time made “yes” and “no” easier to discern.
I am interested in how you “fight this hardest battle” with the time of your life.