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Wednesday Word: Calendars

January 6, 2021 | Jay T. Smith

Calendars

Only a few days ago we celebrated Christmas, and a week later we celebrated the coming of the New Year. Much of our lives revolve around the calendar. Here a few examples: January 1—the New Year, February 14—Valentine’s Day, April 15—Tax Day, July 4th—Independence Day, September 1—the beginning of the new school year, October 31—Halloween, Fourth Thursday of November—Thanksgiving, and December 25—Christmas…you get the point.

Frantic Modern Schedules

In contemporary American culture, we plan our year’s activities around the calendar. This is not counting other dates that drive our personal lives: payday, professional appointments, birthdays, weddings, funerals, vacations, etc. Our basic calendar unit is the work week and weekend. It would seem we have two days of “built-in days of rest”—yet more often than not, we end up needing extra days because we work so hard on our days off! Our calendars dictate the tempo and rhythms of our lives. Unfortunately, even with vacations and days-off we frequently are accused of “working ourselves to death.”

This was not always the case for our “pre-modern” ancestors. Rhythms were much simpler and tempos were much more relaxed. These different rhythms and tempos allowed for deeper reflection on the mysteries of life and opportunities to live out one’s convictions in a more robust fashion. Hard, physical work, in an often hostile environment, was a fact for everyone.

As creatures in a “modern” world, we tend to look at the past as a much more difficult time of existence. This is true, when measured by our modern standards; however, our ancestors knew no other way of existence. Their rhythms were the rhythms of the land and seasons. Life centered around planting and harvest. Indeed the holy feast days of Israel were often yoked with seasonal harvests such as wheat and barley, or fruits such as grapes and pomegranates. There was a definite rhythm to life; yet the tempo or speed of life was much less frantic. The need for “vacations” or “time-off” was non-existent. The rhythm and tempo of life was meaningful and inherently restorative. What can we learn from this different approach to life?

Rhythm and Tempo Change

In 2021, a new calendar-driven year, I’m going to suggest a new approach. Often, Christians talk about observing a “sabbath” rest day, but just as frequently, they do not think well enough of their faith to actually observe it. In our contemporary culture, we should take a different approach, not a “calendar” approach, but rather a “rhythm and tempo” approach. One day out of seven, stop. Just stop; change the tempo. Take time to think, walk, pray, and love; change the rhythm. Turn off the computer and take time to inventory life. Count the blessings, the meaningful moments, and smile. Find a way, or maybe just the courage, to reconcile with those with whom you have struggles, and give them a call. Every other day in your week find a work “cut-off” time. Don’t take it home with you.

Live into the lives of those around you: your spouse, your children, and your neighbors. It will not take long for you to experience new life and that God is always there for you.

Jay T. Smith

President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

Dr. Jay Smith leads the Yellowstone Theological Institute as its president. Dr. Smith has served as minister of youth, music and as senior […]

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