ABOUT FAITH: Consider the lilies
I recently came across a blog that said “Live each day like it’s your last, and one day you’ll be right.” Someone might counter, “I live each day like I have all the time in the world, and so far, I’ve been right every time.” Both of these observations are correct, but we recognize the wisdom in the first and the folly in the second. Time well spent is time cherished; time poorly spent leaves us with a stockpile of regret.
Time is valuable, whether spent in work, conversation, contemplation, or even waiting. But the value of time can be deceptive. Consider who in the following case was making the best and most use of their time.
I once found myself sitting with a group of men at a shopping mall. The common thread among us was that we were all waiting for our female companions to finish shopping. One elderly man was napping; a younger man was apparently transported to some virtual world displayed on his handheld electronic game. I was reading.
Many of you would argue that it was obviously the women shopping who were most productive. But we should not rush to judgment. Each of these activities could be a good or poor use of time, depending on the context.
Maybe the women were wasting their money on bad purchases. Maybe the younger man was testing a new product and giving valuable feedback to the manufacturer. Maybe the napper was recharging so he would have the energy to spend with his grandchildren later. My reading could be frivolous or profound, depending on what I was reading or how well I attended to it. It is all relative, as Einstein observed.
My vote goes to a fourth man, who sat, hands in lap, watching the crowds. He smiled at a little girl holding her mother’s hand. He offered his seat to a young woman struggling with packages and a stroller. When he noticed me watching him, he said, “Isn’t this great? Look at all this stuff we have to choose from! When I was a kid, 90 percent of this had not been invented yet!”
To my way of thinking, he was making excellent use of his time for several reasons. He engaged the people around him with kindness and consideration. He shared his contagious positive attitude with me, and changed the way I was observing things around me. He chose to relate to those around him, rather than isolate himself, cocooned against a busy and hectic world. Mostly, though, he was in the moment, present and alert, while the rest of us, even the shoppers, were gliding through life on autopilot.
One year our family vacation took us across a vast desert in Arizona. As I took in the breathtaking beauty around me, I realized that I was alone in my appreciation of it. Everyone else in the car was either reading or sleeping or occupied with a game.
“Wake up!”, I shouted. “Isn’t this beautiful?”
From the back of the car came a sleepy reply: “Are we there yet?”
“Look at the birds of the air,” Jesus said. “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these” (Matthew 6:26-29).
Jesus was teaching us not to worry about things that do not matter, but we should not rush to the moral and pass too quickly over the manner of his teaching. “Look at the birds. Consider the lilies.” The lesson comes from being present in the moment, mindful of the things around us. Jesus was certainly a scholar of the scriptures, but many of his teachings came from simple observations of things that others miss. In our efforts to be more like Jesus, perhaps we can start with today, awake to every person and thing God places in our path.
Brian Dale is the pastor of Allen Memorial Methodist Church in Oxford.