7.God is the Author of Time (and He has Given you Enough)

So, even though we have work to do to get our priorities and loves in order,  we must also admit that doing such things can inadvertently create a works mentality that is, for most practical purposes, pharisaical.  Remember, when we come to Christ, we bring nothing but our sin, our sorrow, and our shame.  His atoning work on the cross is what gives us a hope that pours forth in praise, thanksgiving, and adoration.  So, there is nothing we can do or bring.  Christ is all, and our discipleship and growth in Christ-likeness is “built entirely on the supernatural grace of God.”[1] It is true that sometimes we must persevere through the wilderness of boredom, apathy, busy-ness, and fatigue in carrying out the disciplines and practices which frame and bolster our faith– much like an athlete who doesn’t feel like going to practice today goes anyway and pushes through the adverse emotions.

You Don’t Understand!  There Isn’t Enough Time in a Day!

It is precisely for the pressed and dry times in life that we deliberately set our sights on holy living by fixing our eyes on Jesus.  It is an attitude that defies “time” and declares fidelity to looking for and leaning on God in all life circumstances- what is typically called a disposition.  In other words, our disciplines and practices lead us to become disposed to actively seeking and acknowledging God’s presence and sovereignty in every aspect of our lives.  All the same, since the Fall, humans have been mostly disposed to avoiding God.  “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?””  (Genesis 3, 8-9).

I think God still calls to us today,

                                                                                 “WHERE ARE YOU?”

And a typical response is,

“I’m here Lord.  But, I’ve been so busy!”

These virtues and habits that develop when we practice our faith help us become inclined, or disposed toward God and the things of God.  But they are not ““natural” in the sense of being inborn capacities or abilities; rather they are “second nature”: acquired… over time by participating in the routines and rituals of a tradition…”[2]  This is why we must be open to the practice of our faith on a daily basis.

Likewise, our second nature is a disposition largely affected by our practices, especially those that we learn through handed-down ritual and attend to with consistency.  Moreover, there is something unique and lasting about a practice.  Alasdair MacIntyre defined a practice as having significant internal goods, meaning that the object and consequence of the practice can only be achieved by regular absorption in the practice itself.[3]   Take the shared meal as an example.  As a Christian practice, the internal goods of a shared meal include fellowship, acknowledgment of God’s provision and presence, generous sharing and hospitality, and acting as a regular place and space for testimony- learning about and sharing the gospel.  If, at meal times, we come to the table only because we physically need to eat, then we fail to seek the truly internal goods of the shared meal; eating in itself is not a practice precisely because we can eat anything, anywhere, at any time in our culture.

So, practicing one’s faith as lived devotion through spiritual disciplines and Christian practices help a person-even a child- become stronger, healthier, and more resilient in the face of life’s unpredictability.  Think of it this way: your heart has an internal pacemaker responsible for what is called normal sinus rhythm which stimulates the heart to beat in a regular, predictable way, both at rest and in response to physical or emotional stress.  Our individual and corporate faith practices strengthen the faith life’s pacemaker if you will; attentively practicing our faith miraculously generates a consistent and healthy life rhythm, and the death grip of too little time in our lives is instantly relaxed.  Instead, our time becomes permeated with God’s presence, and we become more skilled in being still before him.  There will continue to be moments when you feel compelled to hurry or, perhaps, inclined to idle mindlessness, but you won’t ever again need to feel harried or bored.  It sounds simple, and it’s meant to be.  Restlessness fades when you practice making room for God in your life.[4]  It is an important thought with which you must wrestle:

                                                        God has given you enough time.

 

~J.A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

[1] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Discovery House Publishers, 2011 mobile application), October 21.

[2] David I. Smith and James K.A. Smith, Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011), p.8.

[3] Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 3rd ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), p. 187.

[4] If you are unsure where to start, think about the practice of Sabbath-keeping.  We consistently underestimate the value of the rest of God, and the vanity of our incessant striving after things of the world.  For ideas, see Marva Dawn’s book, “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly” and Dorothy Bass’ book, “Receiving the Day”.  If you are unsure how to start, think about disconnecting from any common-day addictions that may sap your available time, including the television, telephone, internet, fitness center, children’s activities, shopping mall, and, perhaps, work itself.

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