David Hegg | Blessed Subtraction as We Shelter

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. "Ethically Speaking" runs Saturdays in The Signal.
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I have a good friend who recently told me how he spent a month without using his phone or any social media. He said that, although the first few days were difficult, the rest of the month was incredibly refreshing, and … wait for it … life-changing. 

Right. Sure it was. No way, man. That’s all I could keep thinking. 

And then, a week ago I decided to self-isolate at home and found my life suddenly evaporated of many things that used to fill it up. And now that the governor has ordered us to remain “Safe at Home,” we better learn how to exist, even thrive in our new “normal,” at least for a season that may last a while.

It’s only been a week but here’s what I am learning: One of the greatest currencies in life is time. I remember an efficiency expert telling me during my college days, “I don’t let other people spend my money. Why would I let them spend my time?” 

By that he didn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to, love, and care for other people. Rather, he meant we should do it intentionally, by freely spending our own time on them. But his aphorism also means that our time is valuable and we should both plan and spend it wisely, intentionally offering it to those things and people that are most valuable to us.

We live in a hurried world, especially here in SoCal where the weather is hardly ever an excuse to stay home. We are a mobile society, and speed is a way of life, on the freeways, and in the office where we have to run to stay ahead. We are a people given to being on the go. We’re always about something and when we relax, we often feel guilty, lazy, useless. Truthfully, few of us really know how to relax, and when we do, it is carefully planned and scheduled so we can say we accomplished something. 

It is both sad and emotionally devastating that we’ve lost the ability to enjoy unplanned, unscheduled, unhurried time. I don’t mean the 30 minutes you set aside to work out, or run, or read. Those are good, but what I mean is time that you intentionally “schedule” as open, unplanned, and purposefully passive. Yes, passive. Time where whatever and whoever is around you takes charge of you. 

Here’s what I’m learning during this season of sheltering in place. I’m learning home really can be a shelter from so much that easily erodes the soul. I offer the following as a paradigm for using this time away well and experiencing some of its hidden blessings. 

First, take time for reflection. Many of the things I enjoy have been curtailed. No church gatherings. No sports. Can’t go to movies. No eating out. No to a lot of things. But … I’ve come to see the blessing of subtraction as losing those time-taking events has given me space to think in an unhurried fashion, to reflect on what I do have that refreshes my soul. 

I’ve also come to prize great conversation. Fortunately, I am blessed to shelter at home with my best friend, my wife. But even for us, spending the entire day in the same house is quite a change. At first, I wondered if we’d run out of things to say. Our habitual time before dinner when we’d tell one another the events of our day no longer makes sense. But it is incredible how, when the mundane things of life are drained away, real conversations about things that matter, things that surprise, dreams, even concerns become fresh and exciting and deeply meaningful. 

I guess you could say there is a new level of appreciation for the ordinary things of life like time, love and laughter. Maybe the best way to express it is just to say I’ve learned how to breathe again, to sit still and take in the things that actually make living something more than succeeding, more than accomplishment, and certainly more than hurrying and worrying. I’ve come to see that the ordinary things are really the most extraordinary things as I make room for them.

Lastly, to reflection, conversation, and appreciation I’m adding preservation. Yes, I want to preserve the blessings I’ve encountered as other things have been subtracted from my daily life. I want to preserve the feelings of sitting and musing and breathing so that when the race begins again, I can not only accomplish what the world around me demands but do it in a way that fuels that part of me sheltering at home has resurrected. You can join me if you like!

Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.

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