Whether you want to admit it or not, we’re all getting older. Which means that there will be a day we look back on this particular season with a mixture of delight and, yes, probably regret. For some reason I spend quite a bit of time thinking about this. When I look back on this season of time will I be proud of how I managed my time with…
I read a great article this morning on Relevant entitled 5 Things We Will Wish We’d Done Differently and I so related (a nicer word than convicted) with each one of these things. I had to edit it down a bit so make sure you go read Eric Tippin’s entire article HERE.
1. “Most of my spare time was sacrificed to social media.”
Collectively, Americans spend 100,000 years on Facebook every month. (Don’t tell Einstein, but it looks like the space-time continuum has been broken.) That means the average Facebook user chooses to spend six and a half hours of his or her month feeding Zuckerberg’s chubby brain child. Add Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites and multiple days of the year disappear like Facebook’s stock value in May. These are lost days that could be spent learning an instrument, writing, cooking experimentally, praying or even having coffee with an old friend.
2. “I knew more about celebrities than I did about my neighbors.”
Many people will protest this. “Tabloids make me nauseous!” and from the more dramatic “I’d rather die than follow Taylor Swift’s ‘love’ life!” But even if you distance yourself from the 3 billion dollar tabloid industry, you cannot escape “celebrity.” For in its pure sense, it has only to do with popularity among the masses, and, in the information age celebrities abound—celebrities of sport, celebrities of entertainment, celebrities of politics and even celebrities of the church. As with social media, the institution of celebrity in itself is not sinful or inherently bad, but, like social media, it demands that its followers invest large swaths of their time in order to feel connected. There are two troubles with this: (Run away! A list within a list!)
a. Much of the information learned about celebrities will prove untrue or irrelevant within your lifetime.
b. The relationship with a celebrity is one way and two-dimensional. In other words, you have no opportunity to affect their lives, only observe them.
3. “I was so set on buying things, I never got the pleasure of making them.”
We are the generation of pre-made pie crusts, instant streaming music, ready-made suppers, waterless shampoo, faux taps bugles, prewashed jeans and even click and grow plants. In many ways it is simply glorious. A colorful and reasonably edible dinner can be cooked and eaten in fifteen minutes so there is more time to apply pre-painted pres-on nails while watching the Do it Yourself (DIY) Network and sharing delicious recipe ideas on Pinterest.
In all this insantity we find ourselves falsely assuming the only reason for doing something is finishing it. But there is another truth that has obviously been shoved behind the microwave: The process of making something can be enjoyable and deeply satisfying. Ironically, we have more opportunity than any of our ancestors to “make for pleasure” and our conveniences make this possible. Instant dinners and dishwashers can make for longer evenings of carpentry, song composition, beer brewing or novel writing. If we pass up this unique privilege history has given us, we may be sorry.
4. “I wasted my life entertaining myself.”
The key word here is self; what Dickens called the, “Grasping, eager, narrow-ranging, overreaching self.3” As long as we are preoccupied with self-entertaining, we have little time for reflection on the needs of other people. And—because of a little invention called the computer chip—our available self-entertainment options are stunning. The gaming industry pulls in 10.5 billion dollars of revenue each year. Video games hold no charm for you? How about the 1.3 billion dollar romance novel industry or the 2.2 billion dollar college football industry? Now, the problem here is not video games, college football or romance novels, it is a matter of math. We have manufactured hundreds of new ways to spend our time, but found no substantial way of increasing that time. Every moment of our lives, we will be faced with the choice of self and selflessness. If we indulge the former, our lives will be wasted.
5. “I never found time to be quiet.”
Little needs to be said here, especially if this is being read aloud. Our lives are full of noises: humming refrigerators, buzzing lights, dripping coffee pots, roaring interstates, pumping earbuds, ringing phones, and chattering televisions. It is difficult to escape all this constant droning noise, but we need just that. And when we do, we’ll realize that silence isn’t really very silent after all; it only hushes bigger voices so we can hear the small. God spoke in a “still small voice” at least once before. Let’s not miss it when he does again.
While all five of these things could be potential regrets for me I think #5 is the one I’m working on the most these days. The older I get the more value I’m finding in being alone and quiet before a Holy God.
For a long time I feared silence. Well, what I really feared was being stripped, being exposed. I also didn’t want to face the fact that I had allowed myself to be shaped more by what I do or what others think of me than by my Creator.
Henri Nouwen, writing of his own experience with solitude, beautifully summarized both the challenges and the benefits of solitude and silence:
In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding; no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me—naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken—nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something. But that is not all. As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces. I give long, hostile speeches to my enemies and dream lustful dreams in which I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive—or poor, ugly, and in need of immediate consolation. Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothingness and restore my false self in all its vainglory.The task is to persevere in my solitude, to stay in my cell until all my seductive visitors get tired of pounding on my door and leave me alone.
Despite the fear and the challenges, I believe that solitude is something we all need. It was certainly important for Jesus. According to Luke 5:16, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke does not quantify the word often, but his words indicate that Jesus withdrew into solitude to be with God at regular intervals.
Now, if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, thought it was important and necessary to withdraw to be with the Father, how much more important is it for you and me?