Gareth and I first visited New York City in the fall of 2016. While I’m not certain about how people living in Binghamton feel about the city, most of the people I’ve spoken view it as a place to avoid. Yet for me, NYC had been a dream that I thought would never come true. I had, like many, over years of numerous American films and series, built up the city in my mind. Of course, most of those films and series also show more grim parts of the city, so my mind’s imagination wasn’t all colored with sunshine and coffee shops, but it was filtered, manipulated and distorted through some form of camera lens.
We took the 3:00 AM bus ride leaving from Binghamton and arrived at Port Authority Bus Station at 6:00 AM aiming to get as much of the of the city as we could possibly get in just one day and as a result, my first view of NYC was a cold fall morning in Times Square. While it wasn’t quite Times Square at 5:00 PM on any given day, with its rush of people, and variety of street side performances, it certainly did not disappoint. I had seen so many Times Square sights before in film and media that it almost felt familiar, yet the dizzying size of all those advertisements and news boards was something exceptional in person. Named after a News Group, Times Square is something of an American media center, and every direction of our view was filled with colors, images, headlines and brands. We had to be purposeful about making our way to where we wanted to go, because there was just so much to look at, so much to get lost in, and so many different retail companies and service providers all vying for our attention on gigantic screens, that without a decided awareness of where we wanted to go, we could have ended up just about anywhere.
I relay that story about my first experience of NYC because that is sometimes what my 21st century life has felt like—an endless sea of mixed media demanding my constant attention. I am certain too that this endless sea is felt by us all, whether we’ve been to Times Square or not. The result is often that, like two bewildered South Africans in NYC, without a clear intention of what we are doing and where we are going, the world becomes a place where we drift and become lost, absorbed by this or that along the way. The tragedy of this drifting, and becoming lost in the physical world around us is that in the process, our time is taken from us, rather than being intentionally given. Without thinking, that finger on the smart phone goes immediately to some or other social media site, a Pinterest board or an online shopping store and we can spend almost unconscious hours without giving thought to what we really want to spend our time doing. The tragic result is that we become a people who have our decisions made for us before we make them ourselves. It is then our challenge to choose how we spend our time before an institution, a business, a school, or a social media site does it for us.
While I have heard this warning of being robbed of time echoed in self help books and other secular sources, my reason for writing about it here is because I believe that the problem has spiritual consequences, and a spiritual solution. Where time is given, intentionally or not, is an indication of devotion and love. Put in other words, what we love we will devote our time to. These realizations have prompted me to ask myself the following question: does what I devote my time to reflect what, or more precisely, whom I love?
While I like to believe that I love Jesus with all my heart, an examination of what I give my time to (if I’m honest) doesn’t always reflect that desire, and so, in the crazy motions of everyday life, my intention to express my love for Jesus goes unfulfilled, and most frustratingly, often ends up divided among the demands of the contemporary world.
Yet, as with all things, Jesus has not left me, or any of us without hope. In fact, there are so many ways to prioritize, schedule, plan, organize and order you time to ensure that you are using it intentionally and according to the things (and the One) you most love. That process is often personal, and is often subject to a variety of responsibilities, yet the part of the process that I would like to isolate for the purposes of this post, is the beginning of it, which involves a reset. This reset, at its core, is a choice to choose, and for followers of Jesus, a choice to choose HIM, not just when we say the sinner’s prayer, but when we turn on the television, unlock our phones, open the catalog, or plan the weekend. While this reset may not mean a commitment to hours a day of solitary prayer and puzzling over the Word of God, what it does mean is an intentional reclamation of your time. John 10:10 describes Satan as a thief who comes only to “steal kill and destroy” and part of this reset is becoming aware that the easiest thing for the enemy to steal from us is our time. The choice to choose is then a step taken to reclaim our time from the world around us, and to willingly surrender that time to purposes of Jesus and the furthering of His Kingdom as an expression of our love and devotion to Him.