"Real Time" vs. "Church Time"
Often, we joke in the church that there is "real time" and there is "church time." When this is said, it is usually to indicate the rhythms of life and decision-making in the church. Some make this comment when they are frustrated that things are not moving in a time frame or pace of which they would expect or be more comfortable.
Yes, I believe it is true there is "real time" and there is "church time." However, I don't think this is such a bad thing. In fact, if we were to embrace it and trust in God's timing instead of our own, I am confident we would find the richness of God's plans and purposes for our lives lived together.
In what we name as the "real world" (perhaps our jobs, the other institutions we are involved in, or the projects and programs we are involved in) time is framed by schedules, meetings, and deadlines. In this arena, time is perceived as being controlled, managed and created by us. That is until something unexpected, something which is clearly out of our control, happens. A crisis or a tragedy re-frames the time frame, shifts our priorities, or can cause everything to feel like it is on pause mode. These moments are brief reminders that time is not truly ours to create and control. Yet, when the crisis or tragedy subsides, the immediate response is to get back to "normal" or business as usual.
In the world of the church, in the world of committing ourselves to trusting in the ebbs and flows of God's designs, patterns and plans, we are called to view time differently. Time (or what is named as the present moment) is a gift from God, not of our making. It can be a blessing, rather than a burden. In God's design there are no deadlines, limits, or scheduled moments when the presence of the Spirit will move, create, and order the chaos. One of the hardest pieces of faith is trusting the Spirit WILL move, create, and order the chaos in the ways needed, but it will not be according to OUR plans, schedules, and time frames.
The proclamation of "God's time is not our time" is another way of saying God and the movement of God's Spirit is not contingent on the timing we so desperately try to control, manage and create. If you don't believe this is true, think of the last time you got so frustrated when something was not happening as fast or in the manner you hoped it would. After pushing, pulling, prying and pleading for some sort of movement, perhaps you gave up. Then after a passage of time when you had either given up on it being a possibility or simply forgot about your previous focus and obsession, things fell into place in a way that surprised and delighted you. That my friends--is God's timing at work. That is the surprising, delightful movement of the Spirit. And at it's best perhaps this could be what we might embrace, accept and trust as "church time."
In this new year, I invite you to consider believing, accepting, and trusting, not in OUR timing, but in the timing and movement of the Spirit which never fails us.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, Conference Minister