As I sit in the corner of my apartment and gaze out the window across the property to the maize standing tall and green, waving to passersby as the wind rustles its stalks, I am struck by the pleasantness this life can hold. It is a quiet day, and the sun is shining warm while a cool breeze dances along swirling leaves upon the pavement. It is the sort of day that novelists and film directors spend their efforts trying to capture. It is the sort of day that people strive to stockpile their vacation days for as they toil through hours and weeks of gray monotony.
But, today is just another day. It’s not a holiday, I’m not on vacation, and I have to cook dinner from scratch soon using a faulty stove and a hot plate. There are dishes to be done, laundry to be washed, and floors to be vacuumed. We will go to bed tonight and get up tomorrow, and similar things will once again need to be done. But how do I go beyond the gray monotony and into the realm of the waving maize, rustling leaves, and shining sun that make up the stuff of novels and movies?
Today an obscure verse in Proverbs 31 struck a chord with me. It says, “expand prudently…not courting neglect of present duties by assuming other duties” (v. 16, Amplified). Somehow after thinking about this verse, it came to me. The answer is in my time. Time is the thing that we never seem to have enough of, yet continue filling up, and always seem to waste. Many people are hard pressed to find “spare” time, but we all have time. It is ticking away, tirelessly counting seconds and minutes, hours and days, months and years. The thing many of us don’t do is recognize the time we do have. That recognition is usually reserved for scheduled periods of time called “vacation” or “the weekend.” But, what about the rest of the minutes and hours perpetually ticking on and on? What are those for? Are they less “time” than those minutes scheduled as “time”?
Objectively, every second counts toward a minute, and every minute counts towards an hour, and every hour a day, day a month, month a year, etc. But, why does it seem that some are “longer” than others? I think that it is in taking the time you have and making yourself aware that you have it. Holidays and vacations and weekends are easier for doing this because they are reserved for such behavior. But, what if once I cook dinner, I pause for a moment and enjoy the flavor and smell of the food I just cooked? Once I do the laundry, can I stop and drink in the freshness of newly laundered clothes? Once I wash the dishes, can I step back and appreciate my clean kitchen? These things don’t take more than a few seconds, but they add to the treasury of meaningful ones.
Suddenly, my regular, routine day now holds the stuff of novels and movies. I interrupt my routine with little seconds that make me smile and make me smile for longer than it took to pause and observe. The smiling makes the gray dissolve into a world of vibrancy. Now, I see the maize waving and hear the breeze blowing and feel the sun shining.
I am as guilty as anyone at filling my time with too many things that ultimately bring me to the end of a day wondering what I did with it. But, I love this proverb that warns me to add things to my life “prudently,” cautiously, carefully, so that I don’t add so many things that I neglect to recognize the time and things I already have.
As I think about going back to the States this summer, I have slight trepidation. I am a bit worried about how busy things could become and how much might be required of me. I’m afraid I’ll take on too many things and crowd my time with things that ultimately don’t matter. However, I hope that this little proverb sticks with me so that even when my responsibilities change and my surroundings shift from what they are now, I can still grasp the seconds that will continue to tick by as surely as they are as I write this. I hope that the lessons I’ve learned from the waving maize will find me when my routine again threatens to make my life seem gray, and I can once again pause and add one more second of meaning to it, instead.