Have you ever thought, “I could be doing something better right now,” or “that’s going to take too much time, I’ll do something else instead”? These thoughts and those related to it articulate the idea that the quantity of time or effort we expend is equal to the value of that commitment, or person’s worth. At first glance, this seems reasonable and justifiable. We, who are part of a Western culture that values pressing time for efficiency, can identify with the rational idea that the more time I spend, the less efficient I am being. In contrast, we can say that the less time we spend in accomplishing any task, even a conversation with another human being, the better or more productive it was.
This idea of efficiency in quantity is exactly what will be considered today: quality versus quantity. Why is it we seem to place value in quantity and not quality? Is the shortest, fastest, and quickest option what is most valuable? What ever happened to the idea that putting in time and investing one’s own effort is worthwhile too? Here is the contrast to take away: it is okay and even good for us to “waste our time” on the little things- on the simple things. These small and seemingly insignificant things throughout our day may be routine tasks or may be something we do while alone.
It is in precisely that moment that God can speak to you:
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. -Psalm 51:6
How often are you in silence throughout the day? Maybe the better question is this: how frequently do you avoid silence? Is there something scary about it? Will your thoughts overwhelm you if you don’t make the first move and suppress them with music, noise, or busy-ness? Is silence the opportunity for your disordered and disintegrated self to show is ugly head? There is a lie going around that blinds us to the beauty of silence. The lie says that if you are not occupied or busy or stressed, you are not being productive nor are you worth someone else’s time or investment. But: since when was life measured by efficiency? Who decided that time would be what we live our lives by? In other words: what happened to God? What happened to ordering our lives to Him in whom there is no time? (Frank Sheed talks about this topic of eternity and time in his book Theology and Sanity.)
Why is it that we do not recognize silence as opportunity, as prayer, as Communion with God? Why is it that we idolize time and seem to order our lives by it? Can we not see that it continually stresses us out, yet at the same time demands our entire life and always passes away without appreciating us? “Get out of my head!” I want to shout sometimes at how obsessed I become with time, quantity, efficiency… as if there is value in only time, in only what is measurable.
This lie is sly and completely contrary to God and his desire for humanity. Consider the remedy to this lie in the light of prayer and the experience of silence as something holy.
Silence is not the only way to holiness, but it is the most sure and secure way. Think of Mary, when she pondered or kept “these things in her heart.” Look at the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He fled to a desert, to a certain mountain, away from troubles, from noise and work. He even wished that the Lord would take away his life. He was distraught at the horror and profanity he saw (verse 10). God told him to go to a certain mountain so that He may converse with Elijah. Notice what happens while Elijah waits:
…there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;
Pause. What? God did all that action but was not in it? Be He did it didn’t He? Yes, but such drama did not contain nor reveal His Presence.
…and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
Pause again. Have you ever been in an earthquake? Elijah rejected this sensual experience and did not count it as the Presence of God. Let that soak in. He sought not the senses to encounter God:
…and after an earthquake a fire,
A fire? Come on! He must be here, right? It’s not like fires sprout out of bushes- oh wait (Ex. 3:2)- Continue:
…but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
God couldn’t be there, right? I mean, pfft, why would the Almighty speak in silence?
When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went and and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him […]
Whoa. Read it for yourself. Teach this to your brothers and sisters. There is something potent and powerful about sitting still and knowing that He the Lord is God, that He made us and we belong to Him. This doesn’t mean that you have to be quiet all day. This means that solitude is the poverty of spirit, the forgetting and denying of self we are in desperate need of practicing for the sake of our own health, sanity, and salvation.
Receiving this Divine Life compels us to go out of ourselves! It compels us to waste our time for others! That life-lived and Gospel-witness draws in others to the same wonder and awe, to silence and adoration of God. Somehow, in this encounter (most actualized in the Sacraments), you are renewed, restored, and re-vitalized. “Vita” in Latin is Life! Therefore, drink of Life (cf. Jn. 4:15)! Yes, this encounter is journeyed toward when we act on grace and discipline ourselves. This discipline, silence, and prayer realigns and reorders our insides. It reorders our interior life so that we may receive this Life.
Let the physical speak to the reality of the unseen yet truly substantial spiritual. Grace and nature are not opposed. When they are united, integrated, this is the life to the full (Jn. 10:10); this is salvation come! There is value in wasting your time. Why? Because it is not for the sake of time, but for the sake of God. Need more convincing? Read Matthew 6:33 and the whole chapter. Ask for grace that Psalm 51:6 may be fulfilled in your life.