by Andrew Federle
I’ve had a planner since I was in the 7th grade. Some kids devoted their free periods to hanging out in the cafeteria; my friend Alex and I got a head start on our homework.
In the church-less existence of my first fourteen years of life, receiving my first planner was as close to a sacrament as I got: A leather-bound tome with a lovely page for each day of my life. My father, a disciple of Benjamin Franklin in general – and his Mormon-offshoot ‘Franklin Planner’ in particular – wanted his son to grow up with every advantage. Chief among these would be the cultivated virtues of productivity and efficiency. I became a good disciple of Mr. Franklin.
At age fifteen, I became a disciple of Jesus. But it was only later – perhaps 10 years later – that I began to question whether productivity and efficiency were spiritual virtues.
I just finished reading a remarkable and timely book: Arthur Boers’ Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions. In it, he quotes author Jim Forest:
“It is a pity we have stripped so many walls of their crucifixes and put up so many clocks in their place. We are surely more punctual than our ancestors, but we are spiritually poorer. Contemplating a crucifix, many of our forebears had a different idea of how to make use of time. A crucifix may not tell the hour, but it offers crucial advice about what to do with the moment we are living in.”
In university, my roommates used to ridicule me for sitting at my desk for minutes on end, staring at my planner as though it were an oracle. I always wanted it to tell me what to do. But this is precisely what a planner, or clock, or smart phone, can never do. It can tell you the hour, but never the moment. It can give you chronos, that’s easy; kairos it has no power to reveal.
Boers references Gulliver’s Travels, in which “the Lilliputians are convinced that Gulliver’s watch was his god because he looks at it so often (p. 141).”
What on earth would they make of us? Staring at our smart phones, holding them close, whispering tenderly to them, fingering them lovingly, gazing at them for hours on end.
A collection of raging idolaters, are we. A bunch of followers of Aaron and his golden calf: “Here is your God, Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
There is another way. There is another One. And his promise comes to us in Advent. He pledges to come to us again at a time of his own choosing. At a time that is inconvenient for us. At a time that we can neither predict nor protect ourselves from. And his return shall be our salvation.
[Andrew Federle is a priest in the Diocese of Toronto serving at St. David's Anglican Church. He is also a member of the Wine Before Breakfast community.]