by Alexei Laushkin
I have been mulling about time for awhile now. Specifically what is a Christian meaning of time?
Our lives seem so fast paced, always oriented towards the future, towards the goals and possibilities that will make things better, and if not the future sometimes drawn too far into the hectic present with its responsibilities and obligations, obligations that take most of our energy. The future often distracts us from the present and the present can seem too chaotic to navigate.
If we don’t have time to feel and we can’t fully orient into the future without become distracted in the present how do we make space and time for pain, disappointments, tragedies, death, significant changes, stresses, anxieties, brokenness, let alone celebration and joy, and the marrow of life itself. The timing all seems rather off, doesn’t it? Like someone decided to play a cruel joke on the ability to process and live life well. How often do we catch ourselves with awkward timing, joys that have no outlets, and disappointments that others can’t be bothered with.
When do we find the deep Christian meaning to it all? What is the Christian to do with Resurrection realities when the timing of our day to day seems so skewed.
If you follow popular evangelicalism, the answers seems to be simply live in a kind of perpetual Easter. See what Jesus has done and feel an emotional high along with us. Such an Easter mentality has very little to do with stillness or peace, and a lot to do with hyped up emotion and a certain kind of overcoming. Emotions and realities that have very little connection to a grounded present or fully alive future.
The consequence is if you simply fill your time with the latest Christian music or inspiration book you may end up feeling as disoriented as you began.
When I see the gospels, when I see the gospels lived out in other people and other Christian traditions, I see real transformation and heart change and all in a very non-scripted non-linear fashion. People whose circumstances have not changed, but whose inner life has. As St. Paul would say the outer wasting away is before, but the inner being renewed day by day. You can recognize a common contour of change, but all very unique circumstances and people. Very un-formulaic. Much more grace and prose, much less theologizing and ritual.
So, how do Christian make meaning out of time? How do we find meaning when there is difficulty and when we are so easily discouraged either personally or with the news of the day. Is there a Christian meaning to all the senselessness that comes at us from every direction. If we can’t escape into the future, or work ourselves up into the present, what are we left with?
We are left with reflections on the church calendar. With centuries of Christian witness and a way to mark our time, whether tragedies or joys, in a way that gives beauty, and space and a real meaning to be in the world but not of, not through detachment, but by marking our time in a rather different fashion.
We are currently in the season of Easter. 50 days to celebrate and meditate on joy and life and fullness. Its Easter, but it’s more than a day, it’s a focus point. You will have sorrows in this season, bad news, discouragement, difficulties, and joys, the point of the calendar isn’t to eliminate the negative, anymore than the point of Lent is to eliminate the positive, but to orient your focus towards the reality of Easter in light of your personal reality and the realities of the world.
Christians need to rethink what we consume in the news and what we look for in inspiration. We aren’t look for highs and lows, we are looking for Christian meaning, the joys and beauty of life as we follow the church calendar. This is Easter, can we see signs of the joy to come in the Pope’s generous expression of hospitality to Muslim Syrian refugees. Can we see signs of Easter in fresh worship and music in unexpected places, can we see the signs of Easter in the midst of our election season, and can we take a moment for joy and for laughter, and for the meaning of seasons and Christianity that does not decay with the ebbs and flow of life.
Alexei Laushkin is the Chair of the Board of the Kingdom Mission Society and Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network. His views are his own.