Time Out is Time in
We often use the phrase ‘time out’. We use it in different contexts. I am always amused that in some sports such as rugby or hockey a player can be sent to the sin bin. Usually this is to cool off after they have committed a foul which, in sports such as football, would see them banned for several games. However, just a few moments out can allow the player to come back in and having cooled off engage in the play again.
I guess we recognise that we need to take time out now and again. Ministers are well advised to take time out in order to avoid the risk of burnout. This applies to other stressful walks of life of course and there are not may that are not stressful these days.
According to Brian Draper, in his book ‘Soulfulness’, taking time out is an opportunity to practise time in, with God. We cannot always have the luxury of taking long periods of time out, such as holidays or sabbaticals. But think about the times when we could spend short periods of time, in each day, contemplating and practising the presence of God.
Draper recommends daily ‘ring fencing’ some time for ourselves in which we ‘time out’ in order to ‘time in’. What about the commute to work and back on the bus or train, waiting at the traffic lights or in the queue at the shops? I often used to think; what could I do during the 3 minutes that it takes to boil the kettle in the morning? Perhaps I could brush my teeth of prepare my cereal to save some time. But these short every day, autopilot chores can be turned into opportunities to quieten the mind and spend time in, the presence of God.
There are many ways to do this such as meditating, centring prayer, mindfulness etc., but the important thing is that, just for those few moments, we focus on the present. Our minds have a natural potencity to keep looping back. That angry exchange that we thought we had gotten over, that snidey comment which we thought we had forgiven, whatever it is, things have a habit of coming back to our minds and before we know it we can’t seem to focus on anything else. Or perhaps it’s not the past but the future. Our minds race ahead, worrying about the things we have to do, as if there were no tomorrow.
According to Draper, the opposite to mindfulness, is mindlessness. So it is good to spend some time focussing on the present, i.e. the presence of God in the present moment of time. That way we can be mindful of his presence and be calmed in it as we step out, having taken ‘time out’ with ‘time in’. As Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:8-9…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things…And the God of peace will be with you.
And…Practice makes perfect!
Prayer for Loving Kindness (think about such things…And the God of peace will be with you)
May I be well,
May I be happy,
May I be peaceful,
May I be loved.
Pray repeatedly imagining loving kindness flowing from us to those around us. It can be on a bus, a train, walking down a busy street, wherever, gradually reaching a point of praying:
May you be well,
May you be happy,
May you be peaceful,
May you be loved.
Towards the end of a day: (think about such things…And the God of peace will be with you)
- Pause to be still and be aware of God’s presence.
- Pay attention to the emotions that you experienced throughout that day.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray about it.
- Look forward to tomorrow.
 Brian Draper, Soulfulness: Deepening the Mindful Life, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016), 35-37
 N.I. V. Pradis CD-ROM:Phil 4:6. Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, © 1973, 1978, 1984.