Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wasting Time

nighttime skies in the desert

My youngest son turned 30 last week, and I posted his picture on Facebook to wish  him a Happy Birthday.  The photo had been posted less than five minutes when I began to get all these responses from a host of friends, family and acquaintances that we have known over these many years: "How is it possible that Joel is 30 years old?" "He can't be 30 already."

I have been thinking a lot about the passage of time this week. I have not only been thinking about how quickly time passes by; but I have primarily been reflecting on how much time I have "wasted" in my life. 

There is a wisdom saying of the Desert Mothers and Fathers:

An old monk once said, "If you lose gold or silver, you can find something as good as you lost. But the person who loses time can never make up what he has lost." 

Regretfully, I have lost a lot of time.  I have wasted my "time." 

When people talk about wasting their time, they often mean that they haven't been as productive as they might have been - you waste time by sitting around watching TV all day long when you could be reading a good book or cleaning out the garage.  

When I say I have wasted a lot of time,  I don't mean that I have sat idly by when work could have been done. I have wasted time by not paying attention to what counts, and spending so much time on what is essentially unimportant in life. 

In the past I have spent far too much time strategically planning and plotting out the future - developing my career, figuring out the next best move, developing personal and organizational  financial strategies, as well as church growth strategies. 

And what has become of all that career planning and strategic planning? I spent so much time building castles in the sand - now lost, gone, faded away.  

So much time and attention was paid to planning for the future that I often ignored and missed what  really matters - the people in my life - my relationships. I was spending so much time wanting something new to happen that I often failed to see what was already happening in the here and now. 

I realize now that instead of wasting all my time building "sand castles," I should have been spending my time building "relationships." 

I wonder how many times I failed to hear the voice of God in the greeting of a child calling out to me in the school yard of the church,  or how many times I failed to see the face of God in the tears or the smiles of my own children or in the touch of my spouse because my mind was so preoccupied in thinking about what was going to happen next?

I wasted a lot of time in my life, and I know I can't make up what I have lost; but I also don't want to wallow in regret. I still have "time" to use my remaining time more wisely and mindfully.  

This is the gift of growing older. I now realize how quickly time passes by. I realize that the time given to me  is limited and precious and I want to enjoy every second of that precious time in the "here and now" focusing on what really matters in life.  

The Buddha teaches:

There is no past, there is no future,
there is only now.

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