The Luxury of Time
The little brown donkey in the above photo is my family’s donkey, Henry. It makes me smile just looking at him. Henry is a sweet boy. We had lived in the country for a few years before we found Henry at an auction house and brought him home. By then we had become familiar with Horses, Cows and Goats, but not Donkeys. Donkeys are different. Donkeys are said to be stubborn, but I think they’re really just very smart, have a good memory, are very discerning and VERY opinionated.
Some time before Henry became a part of our family, a strange and ridiculously frustrating thing started to happen to me. We had not yet become totally dependent on our phones for daily functions, so the digital alarm clock in our bedroom was on my husband’s side of the bed. It seemed like at least once per night I would wake up and look to see what time it was and for one reason or another I could not see the clock. Either a glass of water, or a box of tissues would block it, or the angle was wrong or the brightness was suddenly set too dimly for me to see it.
Sometimes, before bed, I would make sure the clock was turned just right and that nothing blocked my view. But still, in the middle of the night, my view would be blocked. If this happened once or twice, OK, no biggie. But this happened every night for weeks, then months then…being quick, I started to realize that maybe God was talking to me. I was not allowed to see the time for a purpose. But what?
One reason I would look to the clock was because I would wake up from a dream and want to know what time it was. At that time I had started learning how to hear from God in my dreams and sometimes the time you awake from a dream is further communication from God. At that point in our relationship I was getting accustomed to Him making seemingly little things significant for me.
So about the time this slow dawning was happening for me, I broke my watch while working outside. The leather strap, which I had already replaced broke and the pin was lost so I couldn’t wear it. No problem, I had about 4 more, they just weren’t really ranch wear, but I brought out a second one. It got wet or sweaty or something and it stopped too. Really?!
A little before this time, life had changed drastically for me. I had been homeschooling my daughter and now we had a teacher for her. That freed up many hours of my week. At the same time, I had been teaching a women’s bible study, which also required hours of preparation and now the Lord had told me to stop that too. We had sold our house and acreage, so there was much less outdoor work required of me. I was just maintaining the livestock we still had until closing.
Then came the day we were loading up the horses to take to my brother’s acreage–at this point the alarm clock was still evading my every glance and I had broken 3 more watches in one way or another and was down to my last one. (Can we say slow learner?)
The horses, being good boys, loaded up eagerly. We dropped them off, then we came back for our little goats. Check. Then there was just Henry who, though very friendly, chose that day to have one of his introverted moments. He had evaded us when the horses had happily loaded up for the move. Now we had to get him loaded into the trailer and we would be done with the livestock part of the move. Now you have to understand that the first time Henry got in my trailer, I took him directly to the veterinarian to be gelded (neutered). This may have left him some painful memories. Maybe even a hint of resentment?
During this time, with my greatly changed schedule, I had started to wonder why the Lord had pulled me out of teaching (which I loved), and even my work at home (which I loved). I felt somewhat useless. So much of what had become my identity was in transition. All the while He was speaking to me about time, but I wasn’t listening.
I was suddenly free to see friends without a purpose aside from wanting to see them. The Lord brought me people in need who I made time to help. During this period He was speaking to me very clearly about the privilege of making time for people. The absolute honor of moving in Kingdom time, instead of calendar time.
He showed me how he stopped for a woman in need, right in the middle of a seemingly critical mission for a person of influence. (See Mark 5:21-43) Jesus never let anyone or anything rush Him. After all, there is no time in the Kingdom of Heaven. I mean it literally was a life and death situation, but he didn’t rush. But I wasn’t seeing how this applied to my life.
He was helping me notice what it was like to schedule a lunch, or coffee with almost anyone. Every one needed at least 1 week’s notice for coffee, and if you wanted to do lunch, a full month was needed to find a free space for an hour or more. This has become the norm in our day, but He was also showing me our new cultural need, (even for Christians), to demonstrate our busyness. That we need busyness to help us feel important. We want to appear needed or vital in our lives. So as I got comfortable with not needing to impress people with my busy schedule it became fun for me to say, “When would you like to do it? I’m open.”
As I learned to patiently schedule time with friends, I began to feel the luxury of time I had been given. The Father was telling me, “I want you to stop looking at your watch and your calendar and love the people I put in front of you, WHEN I put them in front of you. I have given you the privilege to love them for me. Enjoy them!” Do you feel his smile? I did.
Pretty soon I began to receive phone calls from friends and acquaintances who were having trouble in their marriage, or feeling lonely, or feeling confused about their lives, or depressed, or who were struggling financially or whatever. I would make myself available to sit and listen and help however I could. Now, I had these same kinds of meetings when my schedule was very full. But then I did not have the same sense of urgency to help them as Jesus clearly did. I would look for a free spot in my calendar instead of looking in my heart at their need.
Sometimes, offering my time simply meant that I would listen and pray with them. It is amazing how much listening to them while listening to the Father at the same time, gives opportunity to speak words of life. Even a short meeting could change things for them in a positive way. I began to feel useful again. He showed me the importance of honoring people with my time, freely given.
Because I was now plugged into the source, instead of my calendar there were times I could anticipate the days when He would send me someone. He would whisper to me in the morning and I would be expecting a call. I am His friend and He includes me in His plans.
He began to show me that my identity is in Him, not in the things I do, or where I live or how I live. My worth is in His opinion of me, which is always good. Neither can I find my identity in other people’s appreciation, which can be quite fickle. He said, “You may never see them again. They probably won’t become your best friend, or someone you spend much time with at all. But that’s ok because it’s not about you.”
But now, I was getting ready to move! Packing up a largish house, yard and livestock for a temporary move into storage until the long term move was made. Weeks of preparation. Getting rid of lots of things that had taken up attic space over the years, packing, readying the property we were heading to for livestock, and more packing …and more packing. What a pain in the neck! Imagine if the deal didn’t close?
Now for Henry! Henry had been alone in the pasture for a few days now. The day came when the closing date was just 3 days away. The buyer was touring the house one last time with our realtor. While they were doing that, my friend Margaret and I had put Lil’ Henry in a stall and backed the trailer up as close as we could get it. We thought, surely we could get him in with a little coaxing. (I so wish I had this on video!) We scratched his ears, his chin and tummy and then tempted him into the trailer with food. No go. We tried pulling, then pushing, then a rope behind his butt, then a rope through the trailer bars and behind his butt. Each time we got just up to the step, he would sit down. Or step in and then, just before we could make progress, he would suddenly throw it in reverse! All 600 pounds of him! Margaret and I kept to our feet, but just barely. Grrr!
Ok, now I meant business. I called my husband. Now I was feeling the pressure of time. My whole year of learning about Kingdom time didn’t seem to apply in that moment. We only had 3 days left and no better ideas. We brought back one of the horses and put him into the trailer hoping this would encourage Henry to join him. We thought this would do it for sure.
Well, the 3 of us were huffing and puffing and sliding around, right about the time our realtor (a horseman) and the buyer came out to the barn. The realtor volunteered himself and he and my husband locked arms behind Henry and pushed as I pulled and Margaret cheered as Henry moved forward right up to the trailer and…sat down again! By now the buyer was saying that she would be happy for him to stay. But I couldn’t consider leaving him with strangers. He’s family. I was determined that he would go with us.
On our last attempt to wrestle DEAR Henry, somehow, my last watch crystal knocked into the side of the trailer! Just like that, the donkey spoke. Well, not really, but it became clear to me in the moment, that EVERYTHING must be taken to God and put on Kingdom time. I…FINALLY… prayed for wisdom. I had an idea and called Bob, our horseshoer and friend, and told him the predicament. I called on my community. Bob made time for me and my troubles and suddenly I was on the receiving end of Kingdom time.
In a little while old Bob had a brilliant idea and just like that, Henry was in the trailer and on his way to our temporary home!
This time-less season lasted for me for about 3 years after the day the donkey spoke. I was finally permitted to have my watches repaired recently and I have begun wearing them again. In today’s world I am considered Old School to check my watch instead of my phone. We have phones for that! I have a phone. It has my photos, music, email and, of course, my calendar on it. I use it often, but wearing my watch reminds me to set down the phone now and then and look at people. Often I only see the top of their heads as they peer down at their own phone. But my eyes are open to see what my friend Jesus might want to show me. What is really going on in the room? To whom I need to pay attention?
In our modern world, MY whole world can seem to be contained in my phone. It is easy to feel like you’re are living an effective life if you can just keep up with everything that pops up on it. Take a lesson from a donkey. Take a look and a listen to the people in your life who are the ones who really make your life a life. Learn to live in the luxury of time for others. Stop looking at your phone and your calendar and love the people Jesus puts in front of you, WHEN He puts them in front of you. He has given you the privilege to love them for Him. Enjoy them!”