Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in years—or rather I didn’t do something. I didn’t put on my watch. I have worn a watch for over 40 years. Once I am dressed in the morning, the next thing I do is put on my watch, every single day. A watch is my guide for the day. In my head I know where I need to be and where I need to go. My watch is the reminder when I need to do those things. In a sense the watch/time has been my master. And today I chose not to put it on. Not putting on my watch is an acknowledgement that time is different now.
Yesterday we also took our last trip of “unnecessary travel.” I knew that we shouldn’t do it, but we did. It was Sunday. Our day was not framed by church duties in the ways our Sundays have been framed for over 30 years of ministry. It was a beautiful day so we went to a place that was reputed to have few tourists. (We wanted to keep true to the social distancing principle at least.)
This simple drive, sitting in the sunshine, discovering something about Wales, was in itself an acknowledgement that, like taking off my watch, our time is different now. We wouldn’t have done that on another Sunday. We would have either been too tired or had some other event planned. Time is different now.
I don’t know how our days will evolve over the next 12 weeks. I don’t know exactly how I will fill my time now. I’m sure there will be phone calls, Skype meetings, texts. There will be some work—preparing things to be shared online, but there will be no evening meetings, no rushing from event to event, always feeling I am behind. After we develop a pattern of how to respond to this pandemic, time will be used differently.
Taking off my watch is a sign that I am moving into this new way of being. I do find this uncomfortable and, to be honest, a bit frightening. I have spoken to others who feel the same. This isn’t a sabbatical filled with exciting opportunities, but it is a space in which time can be a friend rather than a master. Instead of rushing about, and worrying that I haven’t completed the tasks that indicate I am of value, I have time, to connect, though virtually, to listen, to think, to imagine.
In the coming days, I am sure I will sometimes wonder what to do with myself though there are plenty of books here that haven’t been read and a garden that could use attention. I will ask myself whether I am using my time in the best way possible. I greatest hope, however, is that time, this new way of being in this time, will end up being a friend.
Time is different now, but even as we move into this phase, God is still present. At the end of this period, I hope I can look back and see how God has been my master. I also hope I can see God with me/us in new ways.