Our Time is Not Our Own

Big Ben, London

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Braveheart is when a warrior from Ireland comes to join the Scots to fight. He refers to his homeland as “my island” to which one of the Scottish soldiers replies, “you mean Ireland?” He responds, “aye, it’s mine.” This character provides some comic relief even in some of the most intense battle scenes. Of course it’s funny to us that he would claim to own Ireland, yet we don’t think twice about the assumption that we own our time. We will say, “this is my night to _____”, or “this is taking up my time.”

In the 1940’s C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape is a demon writing to a younger demon that has been assigned to a new Christian. The book is Screwtape’s letters of advice to young Wormwood on how to tempt his “patient”. In chapter 21 he writes:

Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a private chat with a friend), that throw him out of gear.

All of us can relate to this. The interruption. Sometimes it’s an unexpected phone call in the middle of getting work done. Sometimes it’s a question with a long answer when you were hoping to catch the beginning of the game. These interactions would normally not be a big deal at all to us, but when placed inconveniently in our schedules we become frustrated. “That time was mine to______” we say. But was that time ever really ours? As a follower of Christ do I own anything especially my time? Screwtape continues his encouragement to the younger demon Wormwood:

“[These interruptions] anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own’…You have here a delicate task. The assumption which you want him to go on making is so absurd that, if once it is questioned, even we cannot find a shred of argument in its defense. The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.”

The vast majority of miracles in the gospels were interruptions. Jesus was on his way to heal a young girl and was pulled aside by the bleeding woman. He was teaching and in came a paralytic lowered through a hole in the roof. He went away to get some rest and 10,000 hungry people showed up. And how did Jesus respond? Was he aggravated? Annoyed? Peeved? Did he say, “let’s talk again soon cause I have to run.” Mark 6:34 tells us when Jesus saw the crowds of people on his day of rest, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” He had compassion on them. Let those words hit you. The disciples wrote this book decades after this event happened. They didn’t know telepathically what Christ thought. The compassion was visible on Jesus’ face for these people. These “interruptions.”

The one person who could legitimately say every minute is mine to do with it whatever I please, never shoved a busy index finger in a needy person’s face telling them to wait. He saw every interaction given to him by His Father exactly when he should receive it. He trusted the Father’s perfect plan for every moment he was given.

Screwtape continues:

“If [God} appeared to [the Christian] in bodily form and demanded that total service for even one day, he would not refuse. He would be greatly relieved if that one day involved nothing harder than listening to the conversation of a foolish woman; and he would be relieved almost to the pitch of disappointment if for one half-hour in that day He said ‘Now you may go and amuse yourself. Now if he thinks about his assumption for a moment, even he is bound to realize that he is actually in this situation every day.”

As followers of Christ we say we will lay down our lives, take up our cross and follow him. Yet what of the simple interruptions? What of the small conversations that run long? Are we so busy searching for the “big moments” to take up our cross for Christ we are missing the countless “small moments” he supplies us with each day to lay down our life for him. Trusting his sovereignty we know that every interaction has been wisely placed in our day. He has divinely planned each moment and we don’t own one, they are all His.

Published by Mike


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