News and Tribune

May 2, 2013

MAY: Simply a matter of time

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

We are in the midst of looking at the importance of getting back to the basics of life — looking for the important truths that can both simplify and enhance our experiences. Last week we looked at doing things simply. We peeked at the importance of having a purpose in what we do, whether at work, with our children or with our spouse. When we do things simply, we can concentrate on what is important and we can strive to do it really well.

The simple truth for today: We all have a limited amount of time. Although the numbers vary a bit, let’s say the average American lives to be 75 years of age. If the calculator doesn’t fail me, that works out to be 27,375 days, or 657,000 hours, or 39,420,000 minutes. The next time someone says, “Just give me a minute,” I will be tempted to reply, “Why? Isn’t 39 million enough?”

How often do you find yourself wasting time? If you do an Internet search for “time wasters,” you will find several websites listing the top 50 ways to waste time, online and off.  While I was thinking about this week’s column, I looked at several of these websites (It was research … I really wasn’t wasting time!). One of my favorites was www.watching-grass-grow.com . I suppose I really don’t have to say more. The website lists the time for the next scheduled mowing. It also makes your mouse-pointer turn into a lawn mower.  Scary thing? Since 2005 more than a million web surfers have watched grass grow. OK … time to move on.

The ancient Greeks talked about time with two different, distinct words. One word for time denoted the day-to-day moments of time. From that Greek word, we get the English word “chronology.” We are only allotted so many chronological moments. The other Greek word described time and its importance. Today, we often talk about spending “quality time” with our loved ones. 

There is an interesting passage of Scripture written by the Apostle Paul about time. He tells the Christians to “be very careful how you live — not as unwise, but as wise — making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV). The old King James Version of the Bible translated that last phrase “redeeming the time because the days are evil.”

Allow me to point out a couple of important concepts that we need to apply in our quest to simplify our approach to time.

The first interesting concept centers around the word “redeem.” Literally, it meant to pay a price to regain control of something that was originally yours. A slave would “redeem” his freedom. Land would be redeemed when it was returned to its original owner. God redeemed his people through the sacrifice of his Son. Paul is encouraging us to “buy back” time that was ours, but was swiped from us by days that are evil.

The second concept involved the use of the word “time.” You might be inclined to think that to describe these moments Paul penned the word denoting “chronology.”  Make the most of every opportunity, moment by moment, because that is how we live time. But instead, he uses the word to describe the “quality time.” Every day we lose moments of chronology in wasted ways. Sometimes it is chasing the wind; sometimes it is searching for the squeakiest wheel. He knows that each days presents lots and lots of temptations to wander and waste time. Paul is saying redeem the moments that you lose — to mundane, unimportant, or even urgent things — and turn them into moments of quality. 

Here is the simple truth of our day. Make sure as many moments as possible are spent passionately pursuing your purpose and your people.