““I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
― Bob Goff, Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World
For most of my adult life, I have aspired to be a good time manager. I am good at estimating how long it will take to do something, and, with a little planning, I can get a lot of things done in the time span of a day. I try not to ever feel like I’m “running late” or “wasting time” because one of my chief aims is to make the most of every day. If time is really like a river and we don’t ever get the time back, I assumed I should make every moment count and accomplish as much as I can every day. This has been my philosophy for most of the years that I have been a grown up. Most people would probably not see me as a poor manager of time. And, that is good, because for most of my life that has been one of my highest aspirations.
Recently, I was introduced online to a pastor starting a new church. Someone thought we might have some things in common. He and his wife were about to have their first church service and he was busy with the preparations. I couldn’t go to the first service, so I reached out to him about a week later. Already, after just a week of operation, this young pastor is already so busy, that he can’t seem to make time to see me. Years ago, I would have been hurt, but I think I understand now. The problem he has is that either he has packed his schedule full of “good” things to do so that he feels useful and necessary and productive or he is a poor time manager and situations and struggles are controlling him. It’s the tyranny of the urgent and balance of our ego that flings us into these epic battles.
The first half of my life was dominated by my ego. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I had a certain amount of need to establish my career and identity and I longed to provide for my family. Sounds pretty good, right? During this part of my life, I tried to “invest” time in value added activities. Just like I sought to invest my money into companies that pay dividends, I tried to invest my time in the most productive activities that would form the “container” of my life as described by Richard Rohr.
Thus, the first part of the spiritual journey is about externals, formulas, superficial emotions, flags and badges, correct rituals, Bible quotes, and special clothing, all of which largely substitute for an actual spiritual journey (see Matthew 23:13-32). Yet they are all used and needed to create the container. Richard Rohr
In His book, Falling Upward, Richard Rohr talks about a second half of life where it is possible to live different and pursue different goals. I feel like I began my second half of life after my deconstruction. Since that time, situations like the Tea Shop have taught me to think differently about a number of things, including how I think about time. Is time really a river that is flowing by—do I have to spend the moments as quickly and efficiently as possible? Or is it like a wallet of minutes and hours that I must spend each day—Is it an investment portfolio that I shuffle each day, hoping for the greatest return? Or is it something I should think less logically about and just let it pass through my hands as I enjoy the journey? Those are just some of the questions and assumptions that philosophers and poets and prophets have wrestled with throughout time.
Thousands of years ago, the writer of Proverbs in the Bible gave several ideas about time that somewhat relate to this point and, believe it or not, contradict each other. It’s not a new struggle. As I grow old and hopefully mature, I am starting to discover something better than time management. I am learning that there are segments of time which do more for me than just helping me make more money or improving my reputation or whatever metric makes the most sense to me today. I would call them life-changing moments. An example would be the birth of my children. The first one was 14 hours—not very efficient—but, a life-altering moment indeed. The Tea Shop turned out to be one of those moments.
Because of my influence, the first part of the trip to Taiwan was well organized and intended to efficiently guide us to fun and relaxation at a reasonable price. Almost every aspect of the first part of the trip that I time-managed “blew up” in one way or another. We had to walk from the airport to the first hotel, which wasn’t reserved properly so we had to walk to another hotel. Up until the time when we finally went hiking, something we didn’t plan, the trip was really a series of plans that didn’t quite work out. From a time-management standpoint, it was a disaster. The things I didn’t plan like our cab ride to the hotel and the daily trips to the vegetable stand and, finally, the 4-hour hike at the gorge were the things I will always remember.
But eventually, interrupted plans led us to the Tea Shop which is probably the biggest lesson and blessing of all. I can’t remember spending more than 10 minutes buying anything except a car in my entire life. The goal was always to get in, decide, and get out as fast as possible, because then I could invest my recovered time into something else. But, what if the best thing is to invest my time is in the retail shop? That turned out to be the case on the night of our adventure. The two hours we would invest in people we will probably never meet again literally changed my life. But what is it fundamentally that was important about this time?
When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” I think he was encouraging us to spend our time making people feel valuable, accepted and appreciated. That is exactly what the people in the Tea Shop did for me. They took a segment of their day, devoted it to me, and caused my life to change dramatically. Recently, I pondered how many tasks they could have gotten done in that span of time. For starters, they could have cleaned the shop up and organized the shelf. I mean, that’s time-management 101, right? What I am discovering is that not all time-wasters are actually a waste of time. Maybe some of the people that are so efficient are really just feeding their immature egos and not really doing the things that matter most.
I’m sure that we will always have things that are mandatory in our lives. Eating, sleeping, and taking care of the essentials are probably something we can’t avoid. But we can keep those things in perspective and possibly give some priority to the non-tangibles that promote the greatest commandments (love God, love others). I hope that I am learning the value of finding things that matter more than efficiency. Everyone has had the experience of doing something and saying, “I’ll never get that time back.” But, if I’m honest, I realize that most of those events were when people were using me for their own gain, and I wonder how often I have done the same to others.
I just had another experience this past weekend with my Heart Connexion Community. I got to be a training assistant at the Breakthrough seminar. Altogether, I probably spent about 40 hours over the long weekend not to mention the hours of driving just to get there. I took time away from my family and we even had to put the dog in a kennel because of Laura participating in part of the weekend. But we were able to show love to the participants and I received blessings on many levels. It didn’t help my career or my reputation and fiscally it was costly for me, but it will be a time I will never forget, and I will look back on it with only good memories.
My new goal in life is not to manage my time. What I am searching for now is not a good career move or wealth builder or crowd-pleasing management of events. What I am striving for now is to stumble into life-changing experiences. I guess that why we call it a journey and I’m sure that is why it’s known as adventure. My eyes are wide-open, but my heart is also searching for opportunities to see the Tea Shop experiences when they present themselves and not sacrifice them on the alter of time management and efficiency.
May I just say (without remorse), it’s about time!
 Proverbs 16:9, Proverbs 21:5, Proverbs 27:1
 Mark 12:31
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