not enough time
You say grace before meals./All right. / But I say grace before the play and the opera, /And grace before the concert and the pantomime, /And grace before I open a book, /And grace before sketching, painting,/ Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing,/And grace before I dip the pen in the ink (~G.K. Chesterson, as quoted in Real Simple Magazine, November 2011)
These days, I’m praying over my calendar, my knees pressing into the carpet below the big dry erase grid on my office wall; the paper copy of December, already scribbled with ink, pressed under my fingertips.
I am Hezekiah in the temple, spreading the devastating, impossible letter before the throne. I echo Him desperately, “LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen…(2 Kings 19),” because the temptation is exactly the same: to wonder if God can really use me, if His victory can really be seen, if He can really multiply my meager offering—the loaves, the fish—when the Enemy keeps telling me that I will fail. There’s not enough time. And weakness, exhaustion, these swallow everything, defeat everything.
I’m asking to do the holidays well, begging that He will not let me lose sight of the truly important things.
Because over the holidays, the battle feels more like an ambush. Not enough time, becomes the background rhythm of my thoughts, the drumbeat of the Enemy. Sometimes, at all the wrong moments, it tumbles from my mouth: when I am considering skipping my date with Breathing, His Spirit the breath I need to live; when Riley asks for time held close; when Adam needs to learn better how to brush his own teeth, me holding the wind-up, chattering teeth in my hand, making him giggle; when Zoe needs to talk. I hear myself say it, “not enough time,” and I cringe. What has happened, in the season of lists, to my priorities? What has happened to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)?”
Wednesday afternoons, Riley clambers into the car after school, all hurry.
“Mom, Mom, we need to go. We need to leave early.”
She wants to eat supper at the church building, and I have told her that homework and baths must happen by 5:30 for us to do this. She doesn’t have time for the people that I talk to after school. She sits in the back seat watching the clock. She pats my arm. She reminds.
This week, we talk to Adam’s teacher, and then a close friend, and then just as we get ready to leave, another teacher stops by. Another friend, who has spent her day substitute teaching, ambles out of the building and sees our car, waves, walks to the window. Tears fill Riley’s eyes. While I talk to one friend, I hear another trying to console her. “It’s okay. You guys will leave in just a few minutes.”
She doesn’t know I see the clock too, that I am aware of time. She doesn’t remember, in the frenzy of her thoughts, that I created the schedule for getting to the church building on time. She can’t see past the blur. She doesn’t know I count it important because it matters to her, doesn’t realize that I will find a way to finish in time.
I reach back and touch her knee. “I know. It will be okay. We can do this.”
I am still trying to learn that God created time, brings it to fullness, counts important all the silly, insignificant things that matter to me. I am still trying to remember that He will find a way for me to finish in time.
Wednesday morning, I left the dentist’s office with my teeth hurting (the hygenist thought she was scrubbing stains from her bathtub instead of my teeth) and drove to the park. I walked in the quiet shelter of fiery trees, asking Elohim to help me just be silent before Him, to still my thoughts, to reshape my heart. Just that morning, sitting at breakfast with Kevin, the words had bled through: not enough time…too much to do…not sure how. And then the confession: I don’t want to believe the lie that I’m too busy for God.
Kevin nodded, knowing. “What you need to do is go to the park after the dentist. Take your Bible. Walk. Talk to Him. Listen. Away from houses and everything else.”
I sat at a picnic table after my walk, watching leaves dance under the trees. I read about Abraham and Isaac, how God asked the patriarch to sacrifice everything—“your son, your only son, whom you love (Genesis 22)”—just as He would; how Abraham got up “early the next morning” to make the three day journey to the exact spot God pointed to on the mountain; how he bound his son with ropes and raised the knife, offering everything. Every time I read that my heart aches, my stomach ties in knots. I know how God will do it, how Isaac will live, and yet the whole thing hurts. How did Abraham do that? How did He surrender everything? How did He know that God would make a way?
Then in Hebrews, I put my finger on it, drawing an invisible line beneath the words:
He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death (Hebrews 11: 17-19).
And Abraham was considered righteous because he believed God (Galatians 3:6). He reasoned that God could raise the dead. He didn’t know how it would work, the son dead, the promises kept, but he figured the God who could raise the dead would know what to do.
And I realize, sitting there with grace falling out of the trees on my head, that this is the secret to the free-spirited, roller-coaster-hands-in-the-air surrender I crave, during the holidays, always: to reason that God can raise the dead, did raise the dead for my sake. I don’t know how He’ll manage it, the insignificant but cherished things, and the truly imperishable things, and all the things that must be, but He who raised the dead can figure it out. Somehow, He can multiply my meager offering. Somehow, He can use me to bless, to show His kingdom now, even now.
All these years with God, and His mercies, His lessons, are new every day. I’ve finally figured out that He gifted me my free-spirit, the banshee that groans against Routine and begs for unbound experience, that I might find joy in surrender. Because trust means waiting upon Him, and the wonder of how He will manage it all if I just relinquish control and refuse to believe the lie that there’s not enough time for the things that matter most. Walking with God will always be a grand adventure, the discovery of new paths, miraculous provision, watching Him do in power what I cannot.
This then, is my prayer, kneeling before the days ahead, spreading them out at the throne (I wonder if it’s your prayer too?):
Lord, let me not enjoy the holidays without remembering true need and pouring out your grace. Let me not forget the hungry, the poverty-stricken, the persecuted, the hopeless, the lonely.
Let me not run out of time for hugs, for touch, for listening.
Let me not forsake time spent with you, discovering what you want, those you love, what you’ll do, for all the lists in my hand.
Let me become less that you might be more, have less that I might give more, care less about what I want than what you will.
Let not over-indulgence in perishable things—food, things—replace feasting on everlasting gifts—love, Relationship, gratitude for so much grace.
Let me shower compassion, grace, love on others even as I beg for it myself.
Let me offer you glory, a continual gift, raised to the throne on open, surrendered palms.