How to Slow Time Down on this Journey

Reflections from Dr. Howell

Time is God’s great gift to us. God has given us time – to live, to know and believe in God, to love others. Time is our treasured resource in the spiritual life – and yet, oddly, time can feel like the great enemy of the spiritual life.

I find in me that I am not greedy about money or things; but I can get ferociously greedy with my time. I’m trying to manage the clock, getting a lot done, never happy if even a few minutes are wasted. What time is it? I check, and often.

We only stop fretting about what time it is or how much we’re getting done when a crisis or tragedy strikes. What time is it? Who cares. Too much is at stake to worry about time. The spiritual life backs up and sees the crisis that is living at a distance from God, and the tragedy of missing out on the one big thing in life.

When I was a young man, an older woman told me (with some tremble in her voice) that, as you get older, time passes even more quickly. When my kids were little, I wished I could slow time down. If I’m in a beautiful place, I want to stop the clock. Time flies – and the only way to slow time down is to slow down. The rushing around and filling the time isn’t fulfilling anyhow. So why not try slowing down, being still?

Parents afflict their children with that weird urge to fill not your time but theirs, thinking more is better. Studies prove that children develop in more healthy ways if they aren’t as frenetic, if they have time to kill – if they have space to daydream.

It’s a smokescreen, isn’t it? I don’t have time to pray, meditate or read Bible – or get to worship? You binge hours of TV, play 18 holes, carefully select wine, play pickle-ball, you name it. We aren’t victims of the clock. We make decisions – and our time decisions shape who we are, and certainly whether we have a meaningful, healthy relationship with God.

If God really is God, what sense does it make to wedge in a quickie devotion while living with abandon in the secular world? I got uber-busy a few years back – and God came to me in a dream and asked, “What are you so busy doing you don’t have time to talk with me?” I woke, breathless, and Xed a bunch of things off my calendar that seemed urgent but weren’t really all that important.

I wonder if God wants us to do a hard stop on the lives we’ve been living, and to hear God introducing us to our new best friend: Time. What a precious gift – which you’d realize if you were told there wasn’t much time left for you, or for one you love.

TRY THIS: I feel lame asking you for 3 to 5 minutes – but try it. Find some place and just sit and breathe. Think about God, and not too much about your own life, or about your own life if you’re envisioning God’s embrace holding you up. Just breathe. Just be. If nothing else, you can be sure that God is honored by your time.