Many people today experience their relationship with time as disordered or out of balance. There never seems to be enough time. Time bears down on us, hurries us along at a relentless pace, and demands that we keep up. Time can become a burden rather than a gift, something to escape rather than something to embrace and enjoy.
One solution to this perceived relentlessness of time is simply to stop: stop rushing, stop achieving, stop doing – at least for a time. A life without pauses is like a paragraph without punctuation; it runs on and on, leaving us breathless and overwhelmed. When we stop, we are able to see more clearly the moment we are in. We are able to notice things about ourselves, about those around us, and about the world in which we live. We are able to respond thoughtfully and sensitively to people and situations.
This will help immensely: claim times in your day, your week, your year, when you simply stop; when you say to yourself, “That’s enough work for now”; when you intentionally disengage from technology; when you unplug your computer, turn off your phone, and walk away from your “to do” list. Claiming time to enjoy solitude and silence, away from the constant barrage of advertisements and news flashes, will make a world of difference to you. Consider taking a full Sabbath day each week and protecting it as a time when you stop working, stop achieving and producing, stop acquiring, stop running to and fro to meet the demands and expectations of those around you.
God commanded the people of Israel to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” for two reasons: first, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, thereby setting an example for us to imitate. We need this weekly day of rest; we have been created for work and for rest (Exodus 20:11). Secondly, we are to keep the Sabbath to remember that God has delivered us from the tyranny of work (Deuteronomy 5:15). In Egypt there was no rest; the Israelites worked endlessly to satisfy Pharaoh’s insatiable desire for wealth and power. But God freed them, and brought them into a new land where they were allowed to rest, and where work resumed its rightful place in the ordering of their lives. Whether the taskmaster is our employer or our own sense of obligation or ambition, God wants us to be free from the tyranny of overwork.
What should you do when you stop? Nothing at all. Simply stop and be still. Or you can pick one simple thing and do it with all your attention. For example, at a coffee break, try taking your mug of coffee in your hands, smelling it, feeling it, sipping it, savoring it. Resist the temptation to carry on working or typing or checking your emails during your break. Be fully present to the moment. This is a reordering of time, for it teaches us not to dwell in the past or yearn toward the future, but to be really present to life, in the present, which is where we will find God’s presence.
Taking time to stop brings order and balance into our lives. Try it. Try it now.