Fr Jimmy Bonnici replies...In a world of limits, there is no time to waste. A day has only 24 hours and life has a limited number of them. On the one hand, awareness of the limits of our life can lead us into a sense of guilt with regards to our past time wasted and block us by anxiety with regards to our present - no time to waste, a vicious circle. It’s the voice of the man in the gospel story saying “Cut the tree down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” (Cf Luke 13,7). On the other hand, grace can free us with the words of the gardener who cares for the tree “let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good.” (Cf Luke 13,9).
Grace comes to meet us with the gentle and encouraging presence of the gardener as described in Luke 13, 6-9: "Give some more time" ... "I will give the necessary nourishment, encouragement". There is always time for hope. Hope fertilises time and then fruit can blossom.
Understanding what is and what's not wasted time
I have a challenging situation to face but I find myself going on social media. Already 20 minutes wasted. Avoidance sent me offroad. Then procrastination invites me to focus on other things “to do”. They all seem to be urgent. Soon the day is over leaving me with the feeling that I wasted the necessary time for what’s important. At other times I get the feeling that I am wasting time when it might not be the case. Rushing from one thing to another, maybe feeling important because of feeling busy, I find it difficult to stop and play with my children, with my nephew and nieces. While eating with spouse or friend, I try to finish another email “not to waste time”. And prayer feels like wasted time as the “to do list” scrolls up while trying to be silent. Up to the point of feeling guilty of taking a holiday. Sometimes we invest in a relationship and, in some way, it comes to an end.
Was it wasted time? Is the water that slips through our hands necessarily wasted? Staying with our experiences of “wasted time” can be very revealing: not only of the sources of our frustration but also of the life-giving ones.
Understanding struggles related to time wasting - “Give some more time”
One of the sources of our struggles is the mentality “I want it all, I want it now”. We might panic because we did not do everything: “I did not read everything”, “when I made a choice for one thing I missed many opportunities”. If the online world gives us immediate access to information, it is also accompanied by the fear of missing out. The fear of not reading every piece of news or information, or missing a rewarding interaction continues to feed our anxiety.
Grace gently pricks the balloon and saves us from the suffocation of living inside of it. “Give some more time” enables us not to value our life in terms of immediate success or failure, of accumulation and achievement. Grace opens up new vistas. There is someone who cares. There is room for trust. Giving time for growth makes growth possible. Be open to give fruit, but time invested in roots in not time wasted.
Spiritual tips to deal with wasting time in your life:
1. Start by being thankful:
Find time to be thankful for time given, for what you learnt from your mistakes, for the patience you experience by someone else, by God who is giving you time again and again, today.
2. Confront guilt and be open to the words of the gardener “give it some more time”:
Sometimes we need to confront guilt. It is true that we have to face our responsibilities. And we should be thankful for family, friends and colleagues who help us not to avoid it in a wishy-washy way. But in the context of grace we can overcome that kind of guilt that blocks us into more inaction. Bring to mind those gestures of care, patience, and love that give encouragement, open you up towards the future, fill you with hope. Saint Francis said to his companions that they should never let anyone go away from in sadness. Everything you say must be an encouragement. As the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels said, “those who crush hope take away the joy of life, creativity, and imagination. And that, it seems to me, is fatal to the Kingdom of God in our times”. Confront the guilt that leads to discouragement and be open to the words of the gardener who out of manure nourishes the roots, and out of our death brings new life.
3. Appreciate the time given today:
Instead of regretting wasted time, appreciate the time given today. Appreciate the trust invested in the seed, the investment and patience in a tree to bear fruit that I might not see. The limited time given to me now, is a gift. A gift by the One who is taking care of the bigger picture.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.
(Prayer attributed to Oscar Romero)
Overcome regret over wasted time by forgiving. One of the paradoxes of the Christian message is that of forgiveness. Lack of forgiveness – out of concern for the good wasted – leads to more blockages and thus no fruit. Whereas when God forgives, the giftedness, goodness increases.
5. Give time to find balance:
The parable of the gardener giving more time to the fig tree is immediately followed by the woman healed from a “spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years”. Jesus, the risen “gardener”, freed her on the Sabbath. It’s the day celebrating God’s rest. It’s the day of finding the balance (work and rest), the day for cherishing the good done (yours and that of others). It’s the day when Jesus transforms our acts of wasting someone’s life (his death) into a source of new life.
So be freed from perfectionism. “One must not destroy oneself trying to be too pure. The best souls, the most nourishing, are made up of a few great radiant goodnesses and a thousand little dark miseries which sometimes nourish their kindnesses like the wheat that lives from the rot of the soil.” Marie Noël .
6. Make time for true rest and connection with God:
Find time to celebrate the Sabbath: enjoy rest, connect with God, and start afresh, giving yourself, giving your best.
Published: April 2019