The amount of time you have impacts the quality of your service. This is not a blanket rule (is there ever such a thing?) but it’s definitely something I’ve observed, most frequently in myself, but often in others too.
What do I mean by service?
Anything we do for others. Which, when we think about it, is often quite a lot – whether it’s making dinner for our family, ringing a friend, texting a worried parent or simply tidying up after ourselves.
I’ve watched myself do these activities when I’m rushed for time, and I’ve watched myself complete them when I don’t have anywhere to be – and the latter service seems more beautiful.
There’s something to be said for service that comes out of rest rather than rush. I think this is because when I’m serving others out of an expanse of time, it:
- Is less likely to be a selfish sort of service – because I’m not spending time feeling heroic because I managed to squish it in, even though I have a ‘lot on my plate’. I’m also less likely to feel ‘put upon’, ‘used’ or any of those other adjectives that we only seem to use when we are busy. When I have time, I tend to think: why not serve? What a blessing to do this!
- Is more likely to be done well – because I’m not rushing to complete the task or doing a half job. I’m more likely to take the extra step or run the extra mile to serve well
- It seems more beautiful from a distance – because it becomes a natural part of our day rather than a tick-box task to fill ten minutes. This is a bit subjective, but I think when I’ve watched people serve and they are “in the moment”, and this service is what they have to fill their time, and it is entirely theirs, they tend to enjoy it. And when we find joy in our service, I think this mirrors Christ better than if we begrudge every minute.
And of course this sounds very nice, but there are a few things we have to consider.
What is the problem?
Is the issue that we don’t have enough time? Should we scale back our agendas and loosen up our calendars? Or is the issue that not having ‘enough time’ and the stress that brings simply forces our own sinful desires to the surface?
I think it’s a bit of both. I’m not going to go through a whole theology of busyness, but it is true that when we are busy, people miss out on love. I think we do need to look at our lives, and makes sure that we have time to love people as we serve them. We need to create an extra ten minutes in our day to clean up after ourselves, or chat with the postman.
But all the things we are ‘busy’ with are necessary, we might argue. After all, we are busy loving people! And we can’t possibly love everyone! True, and yet I suspect we spend a lot of the day ‘busy’ with things that perhaps aren’t that important. I’m not talking about rest or eating, but about spending ten minutes less changing our outfit for the fourth time or reading a recipe which (let’s be honest) we’re not actually planning on making, in order to say a proper goodbye to our partner when we leave the house.
But shouldn’t we be able to love people and be busy?
You know what? Yes. But does it happen? Not really. If we were not sinful, fallen creatures stress would not affect us and we would love all the time. But we are sinful. And it’s not ‘weak’ to choose to create a buffer of time in order to prevent us snapping at the people around us. I’d even go so far as to say it’s wise, and demonstrates that we know our own shortcomings.
But life isn’t ideal!
Even with the best made plans, life happens. We get stuck in traffic, waiting rooms are overflowing, the line at the check-out is ten metres long.
And you know what, there’s nothing inherently sinful or wrong about having to rush from one thing to the other. Having to do so creates an environment in which it is easy to sin, but also an opportunity to learn and practice patience. Being rushed is not a ‘get out of fail free card’. It doesn’t entitle us to yell at our kids or do sloppy work.
Being busy gives us a unique opportunity to turn to Jesus. To admit that so often we value others things over service, and so rush through it. To ask for forgiveness and the grace to love for others. To lay out our plans in front of him, and relax in the fact that however many times we stuff up, He is still our Saviour.
Our service is often of higher quality when we are not rushed, but God can give us the love to serve beautifully even when we are. He also forgives us when we fail, and reminds us that in the end, it’s not our service but our Saviour that matters.