CHAPTER ONE: IT’S TIME WE TOOK THE TIME
Arrhythmic Lives……..As an exercise physiologist, nutrition professor, and wellness educator, I have long been intrigued by the notion that God’s gift of time envelopes us in a regular, rhythmical embrace of hours, days, weeks and seasons. From the primal rhythm of each heartbeat to the predictable pull of the moon on tides, from the daily need for sleep and food to the coming of winter after harvest, our bodies and our communities are shaped and framed by time. So, we shouldn’t be surprised when our responses often affect our health.
When it comes to physical, emotional and spiritual health, it is important to pay attention to these God-created rhythms. Our non-stop activities put us in perpetual fight-or-flight-response mode, causing hormones like cortisol, designed specifically to help us respond to immediate threats, to course through our veins for hours on end, keeping us literally wired for action. Consequently, our blood pressure rises. Our gut tells our brain to eat more high-energy carbohydrate. Insulin response to rising blood sugar is blunted, and our sleep patterns become disturbed. As a result, our bodies don’t get the regular, rhythmic rest they need, and we find ourselves self-medicating with sugar, caffeine, “energy” drinks, fast food, TV/internet surfing, and sleeping pills to keep the “on” button lit like a pilot light.
So, we live rather arrhythmic lives, pulled out of step by a culturally subtle but very real centrifugal force that thrives on flinging us helplessly outward into a world where time is compressed, and the great unspoken assumption is that we can control it. Time is no longer gift, but an increasingly frustrating commodity in a warped economy with a currency of minutes and hours; just like money, we never seem to have enough time. On a daily basis we live the dual lie that being busy is virtuous (because we all know that the opposite, idleness, is a vice), and that accomplishing everything on the endless to-do list is necessary. What’s worse, we unthinkingly adopt the idolatrous notion that the calendar is the true center of our lives. Commitment to God is reduced to three-minute “devotions”. We slot prayer into the commute to work, we over-schedule and over-manage our children to ensure their successful launch into this perverted world, we skip meals and eat on the fly, and fall into bed too exhausted for nighttime prayer or the delight of intimate physical union with our spouse. We run not the good race, but the futile one. We don’t flourish, we survive, and our filled time leaves little room for making the Lord the center and focus of our lives.
Of course, we must not forget that for each one who experiences the stress of rationed time, there are others with unwelcome time on their hands. For some, one’s heartbeat seems slowed to a crawl, and the hours drag. Those out of work, the aged and alone, and those suffering illness can find that time slows into long, often boring and lonely stretches of hours and days. This is just as stressful as time famine.
In either case, we become unsettled. Restless. Even as the church calendar weaves its liturgical rhythm through our days, we find ourselves surprised and breathless- it’s Advent already? How did Christmas get here so fast? We don’t have time to ask ourselves, “What’s the hurry, why so rest-less?” I often find myself asking how I am supposed to work, and create a stable home life, and be a faithful presence in my church family and local community, and take care of growing children and aging parents, my spouse and myself without losing my way? How do I spend time with God- really seeking his presence- when each day is already so full? More importantly, how do I ever find enough time to respond lovingly and selflessly to the needs I see all around me, praying for those needs and for the salvation of others? Conversely, how can people with too many painfully empty hours view time as God’s gift? I think we all intuitively know God’s answer: “Be still and know that I am God.”
After all of this, you won’t be surprised to learn, as we dig into the meat of Shared Meals, that eating together on a regular basis immunizes against slavery to time.
May you find that lingering with others over a good meal brings rest, clarity, peace, and togetherness. Go ahead! Plan a meal. Invite others. Share. There’s a simple rightness to it all.
~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.