Earlier this year I started working at the library. Immediately, time began moving faster.
When customers check out books, in most cases they have 28 days before the books are due back at the library. This means that every time I check out a book for someone, I hand it back to them and say (for example), “This will be due back on September 15th.”
And every single time our due dates slip into the next month, I feel it like a punch in the gut.
So many things make it hard to keep track of time, and so many things make time feel like it’s moving faster every day. Job changes, growing children, pandemics, vacations — good and bad things all steal my sense of time, yanking it right out of my hands.
After working part-time (and mostly from home) for a dozen years, I transitioned into a full-time position at the library this month. Now, on top of being reminded that September is right around the corner, just a quick book check-out away, my calendar is fuller than ever.
In the weeks leading up to this new position, I considered the changes coming my way, my evolving relationship with time, and my struggle to fit in all the things at any cost. That’s when I began hearing a voice in my mind chanting: “Redeem the time, redeem the time, redeem the time.”
Cue the anxiety! Cue staring at the ceiling when I’m supposed to be sleeping, staring out the window when I’m supposed to be writing, staring at my phone when I’m supposed to be present with my family, staring at my calendar, and wondering why I can’t breathe.
(Apparently, my version of anxiety comes with a lot of staring.)
That voice I heard urging me to stop wasting time, urging me to make another list, create a menu of quick, healthy meals, read more to my kids, focus on my new job, and find time to get on the treadmill . . . I thought that voice was God. I thought God was reminding me of Scripture that encourages us to make the most of the relatively little time we have on earth.
“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
I thought, for a while, that God was stressing me out. Or, more accurately, I thought He was making His expectations clear and exhorting me to work harder to meet them — no matter how hard it would be.
But that’s not how God works or who He is.
While He is perfect, God is not a perfectionist who expects us to be perfect. He knows well that we cannot be! He knows our limits and rather than hate them (or hate us for them), He promises to love us and help us. And when He reminds us that our days are short and advises us to redeem the time we’ve been given, He’s not dropping an oversized backpack of responsibilities over our shoulders. He’s not chaining us to a calendar or to-do list or some ideal version of ourselves while pointing to a ticking clock. He’s offering us a hand up, a light yoke that shares the burden. He’s offering us relief — from the rapid passage of time, from the ever-growing list of expectations we subscribe to, from the belief that we must make everything priority-one and cram it all into 24 hours a day.
No matter how open or full your calendar or to-do list is, I suspect you might have heard that chant of “redeem the time” as well. But when it comes to our time and how we use it, I think God is offering us more than a warning that the time is short.
He’s reminding us to walk in wisdom and to be intentional with our resources. He’s reassuring us that the troubles and anxieties of this world won’t last forever. And He’s encouraging us to let go of the things that don’t matter in order to make room for the ones that do. Most of all, He’s reaching toward us in love to hold up our arms when they get tired and to bear the weight of all our concerns.
If you find yourself hearing a little (or a loud) voice chanting, “Redeem the time,” and it feels like a judgment or a threat or a kick in the shins, remember who God really is. He is our Creator and Father, the One who knows everything about us and how much time (and energy and ability and motivation and perseverance) we actually have. He is the One who loves us unconditionally and who promises to lighten our load, not multiply it. And right now, whether it feels like our days are dragging or flying by, He is constantly and actively redeeming our time and us.
“Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.”