Author and educator Henry Van Dyke once opined, “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” Zall’s Second Law is less poetic on the subject of time – “How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.”
Time is a precious gift. Poet Carl Sandburg described time as “the coin of your life…the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent.”
Author Denis Waitley wisely observed that “time is an equal-opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours, scientists can’t invent new minutes and you can’t save time to spend it on another day.” Clearly, the gift of time is given to each person by God to be used wisely and well.
At the dawn of this New Year, we do well to ask ourselves prayerfully, “How am I spending my time?”
In the early weeks of the New Year, I offer you these reflections on time, so that together we will spend the coin of our lives wisely.
1. Give each other the gift that keeps on giving. Parents, grandparents and families, quality time spent with kids, grandkids and family members will pay dividends for the rest of your lives.
Are you aware of the health benefits that come to a family that shares quality time together? A Columbia University study advised parents to make a weekly meal sacrosanct. Research shows that the blessings of this investment are irrefutable for the family that dines together. This time together for conversation, levity, discussion and sharing translates into fewer social problems for families with teenagers.
Teenagers, take time with your parents and family members for conversation by taking off the headphones, turning off the iPod, leaving your cell phone in your room and spending a twitter-free hour with those who love you.
Families, make time for family prayer. Parents, teach your children to pray, and include in their instruction the rosary, novenas, Stations of the Cross and spontaneous prayers directed to the needs of your family, your parish and the wider community.
Plan to take an annual vacation as a family, if at all possible. It need not be an expensive or lengthy sojourn, but rather a simple time of re-creation.
Husbands and wives, take time for each other. Set aside an evening a month for a special date with your loved one. This time together will also be a blessing for your children, and help you rediscover the precious qualities that first attracted you to your spouse.
Consider new ways to expand the horizons of your mind by spending less time in front of the television or computer screen. Read a good book, listen to music, take in a good movie. In the words of self-help author Stephen Covey, “sharpen the sword” of your intellect.
2. Spend quality time with the Lord. Remember the sage words of Pope Benedict XVI who wrote, “Remember time spent with the Lord is never time wasted.” Let Jesus speak to you in Scripture and in prayer. Open and close your day with words of gratitude, contrition, petition and praise. Turn to Jesus in times of sorrow, fear and joy. Draw closer to Jesus in the Eucharist, called by the late Pope John Paul II “the Church’s most priceless gift.” St. Theresa of Avila called contemplative prayer “a close sharing between friends. It means taking time frequently to be alone with Him whom we know loves us.”
Become a life-long student of the Church, discovering the treasury of our traditions, and sacred writings, including the Lives of the Saints.
This year, take time to make a good confession, and resolve to set aside whatever is dis-easing your soul and robbing your heart of peace.
Prayer is best cultivated in quality time and commitment to the person of Jesus. Is your present prayer life saying silently, “I have many priorities in my life, Lord, and you are not among them”? Let this New Year be the year when your prayer life took a turn for the better.
3. Make time for others. Give part of your time to others in greater need than yourself. St. Francis of Assisi wrote that Christians hold that “in giving we receive, and in dying we are born to eternal life.”
In this New Year, volunteer a portion of your time to a worthy cause. Visit a nursing home, call an elderly parent or shop on behalf of a homebound neighbor.
Listen to the forceful counsel of author H. Jackson Brown, who wrote, “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day as were given to Helen Keller, Louie Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Theresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.”
Giving of ourselves to others with careless abandon and generosity is a third way to invest the gift of time wisely and well.
There is a certain urgency in deciding how we will use this gift of time that comes from heaven above. Without thoughtful and intentional decision-making, we are left vulnerable to wasting time and wiling away our days.
The late John F. Kennedy related this brief story about the great Marshal Lyautey of France. Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. To which Lyautey replied, “In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!”
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 26, No. 1, January 22, 2010.