We live in a fast world. Everything has become streamlined and works towards ultimate efficiency so that not a moment of our precious time is wasted. Thoughtful meal preparation has turned into fast food. Using long conversations and words as means to acquire the answer to a curious question is a dying art, killed by the ease of the touch of a button. Transportation, communication, and technology circulates in constant motion around us at all times. And with this efficiency, this saving of time, we seize the opportunity to squeeze, push, and stuff more and more into 24 hours until it spills over and out.
I find more often than not when someone asks me, "How are you?", I respond with something to the tune of, "I am good, just really, really busy. We're just in a really busy season right now." I name it as a "season", bringing with that statement the idea that it will pass, that it will somehow transition into something else. But it never does. In fact, I can't think of any time in the past several years that I wouldn't label as "busy".
As I look around and see the growing noise and speed of our modern lives, this thought hits me: Time is beginning to be one of the most valuable commodities we have. To invest your time in someone or something is a very precious thing. Time is something you can never get back, once you've given it away, it's gone. As I have realized this more deeply, it's lead me to towards two realizations that have much to do with the missional conversation and what it means to engage those in your context.
- Investing Time in People is Imperative to Missional Engagement
Amidst this rapid pace that our world operates at, among this swirl of humans passing each other on sidewalks and freeways and supermarkets, it's rare to find someone who is willing to spend their time on you. Just you. Because they find value in who you are as a person. It's so rare in fact, that it often causes people to stop in their tracks, it incites curiosity and questions. Why did they take time to look me in the eyes? Why did they ask about my life and sit and listen, like they really cared? Why are they willing to stop the motion of their own schedule, their own plans, attending to their own needs and just be in this moment with me? It's often the first step in showing people a different kind of love, the love of God.
People are so used to others being "too busy". We've all become accustomed to being surrounded by a society drugged by the effects of being on this speeding train that is life. So when someone dares to step off for just a moment, to be still while the world whizzes past in a blur, it is a meaningful and powerful occurrence. I believe that investing the commodity of your time is even more valuable than your money. When you chose to spend time with someone - unhurried, quality time - it changes everything. You will find honest connection. You will see people willing to share their story, willing to go past that surface level, willing to contemplate the deeper questions of life and meaning.
- Don't Wait for Free Time
I have learned that in order to say yes to something, you also have to say no to something else. If you feel a pulling inside as you read this, a tugging desire to invest more of your time in your context, you're going to have to say no. In this world, free time never spontaneously shows up. You have to make it, you have to fight for it. If you feel that prodding in your soul to start investing more time in your context, it's time to take a hard look at what you're spending your time on currently and it's time to set some boundaries and say no to a few things. For some people, that's simply reducing all the tiny, needless time wasters like mindless social media, television, and constantly keeping up with the current events of the world when you don't even know the current events of your neighborhood. For others, it means stepping back from being involved in things that are good, even worthy, time investments - but simply not where you are supposed to give your time. Things in this category can range from church duties, to programs and causes that keep you busy but also keep you from actually investing in people. Investing time in people, where your eyes meet, you breathe the same air, you sit in close proximity, you share food and drink... That moves far beyond just giving time to a program or cause.
Who is someone you care about? Who is someone you feel sent to? Have you made a consistent investment of your time to them? Truly giving your time to someone or something you care about requires you to slow the motion of your own life. It requires you to hold this moment and the next and the next, without trying to get anything out of it. No pushing conversation towards a destination, no watching the clock, no allowing your mind to run in a thousand directions. Just being there. It could be talking, helping them carry out a vision, complete a goal, or take a first step in a dream that is dear to them, an investment of time where you don't seek to get anything in return. This communicates loudly that you find value in them, you see them as worth investing yourself and your time in.