Unwrapping the Gift of Time

I’ve been given the gift of time. Time away from any obligation and any routine. Time away from my house, my town…my country! This gift came in a package made by one of my husband’s many work trips. He offered this gift, as he often does, and nothing got in the way of opening it. This business trip is 3 weeks in Germany. He’d be free the first 2 days, one day during the first weekend and hopefully a full 2 days the 2nd weekend. So we’d get to do the tourist thing. I’d need to be flexible, he said, because his work hours will be long and are not in stone. He did know he’d be working every day of the last week so he arranged for me to fly home after the first 2 weeks. My brother and nephews would be visiting my parents at the end of that last week and flying home would allow me to see them.

So, how did I envision using this gift of time? I imagined freedom from distractions would be fertile ground for deep communion with Jesus. I imagined inspired writing and new directions for my present and future. I imagined long walks in a foreign land. Doesn’t that sound romantic? And, I laughed as I imagined the simple freedom to read hours on end without guilt.

The expression, in it’s many forms, that laments “no matter where you run, you come with yourself” has proven itself to be true again in my life.

Living in a hotel apartment, in a tiny town far from any tourist meccas, the habits of my thought life have been getting in the way of fully enjoying this gift of time. From the minor annoying habit: I still stare into the closet wondering what to wear. To the ungodly habit which often impersonates as a godly habit: I still stress that I am not making the best use of my time. I still criticize my lack of efficient planning! To the surprising longing: I find myself longing for companionship while Ron is at work. Wait a minute, I love alone time.

Why didn’t I bring a study that would have stirred up that-there deep communion with Jesus? Never mind that I shouldn’t need a book to enjoy shared time with someone; least of all the lover of my soul! Why am I feeling too chicken to drive or take a train a couple of hours to some tourist mecca? Never mind that the gift wasn’t tourism; it was time. What if I regret…? Never mind that every day is a gift; not an obligation.

I have enjoyed reading and long walks. I have enjoyed sitting alone in a cafe listening to other languages and watching people who don’t share my nationality go about their daily lives. And yet my thoughts often opt to fret.

I reread a beautiful poem a few days ago that blessedly is stored on my Kindle: “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott. The commentator Roger Housden makes this observation from his reading of this poem: “We spend much of our lives trying to make ourselves – to create the life we want, to forge some reality from our dreams. Instead of making ourselves…we are ourselves…It is as if our joys and trials are there in seed from the beginning…” He goes on to quote J. G. Bennette, “we labor under the misapprehension that we have to think up what we have to do.” THAT got my attention! “The truth is this is not our responsibility, because the pattern of things is greater than we can imagine…the unconditioned side of our nature”. Housden goes on to write, “who you are is there from the beginning. Your task is in life is to discern that pattern, listen for it, and give room for it to emerge.” That goes along with the Jesus centered book “Becoming Myself” by Stasi Eldredge: “Our story is our own. Our taste is our own…We have a style of relating, a kind of sin we easily fall prey to, and a favorite way to spend a free afternoon. We already are ourselves. Unique. (Cookie cutters only work well for cookies).”

As a follower of Jesus, a daughter of the King, my creator, I’ve spent a great deal of time praying for discernment. My husband encourages me to look for what God puts before me and do it. That, he believes, is discerning God’s will for my life. I know there’s real truth in what he says. The Bible confirms that God gives us the little to prepare us for the more. Also, the Bible teaches us that our idea of “little” may be something God deems as “much”. But in my complicated thought life I struggle (and long) for more. And I also believe God is the source of our longings.

“Love After Love” speaks to me during this gift of time because of the call to accept my becoming and let go of the pressure of creating. And it has led me to consider that because we were created with an individual purpose and because we are personally loved by that Creator there is a pattern to our life that speaks of his plan for us.

I’ve had particular Bible passages that pop to the surface through certain seasons of my life. This past year, 2 Corinthians 10:5 has been my regular companion.

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”

I’m excited to direct my thoughts to the God given patterns of my life. Not habits. Not habits used in the schemes of the devil. But patterns that demonstrate God’s work in me. Patterns that reveal I am becoming and reveal, in part, what God created me to be.

Yesterday, half way through my gift of time, I was knocked out by a migraine that wouldn’t even succumb to 2 migraine pills. His mercies are new every morning. Today I return to how God spoke to me through “Love After Love” and I choose to take every thought captive to Christ.

And I smile as I set out on another walk through this tiny village. I smile over the title of the poem Jesus gave me. Love After Love. That is the truest gift in my life. He who is love never tires of calling me back into his love. And his love redeems time. His love redeems the gift of time. His love redeems the fear in the loss of time. His love redeems the struggles in time. Time has no control over his love.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery”. I’m thinking time wasn’t the gift I received. It was just the beautiful wrapping. The gift is freedom! Freedom to be me.