Wasting Time Well

Each New Year, I make a list of resolutions. I wonder, though, whether this is energy well-spent; as much as I love lists and goals, I never fail to, well, fail. Even though I make some progress with each new year, I more often am left disappointed. As I mulled over a resolution for 2022, I kept returning to a chapter in my master’s dissertation titled “Sound and Silence: Listening, Resting, and Waiting in the Spirit.” In this chapter, I discussed how effective musical practice provides an image of healthy spirituality—that is, of discerning when to strive and when to be still, when to speak and when to remain silent.

I have written before of my tendency toward “Martha-ness,” of keeping busy and seeking to be overly productive. And yet, just as constant sound makes for poor music, constant bustle impoverishes faithful living. More concerning than my propensity to stay unnecessarily busy is my inability to rest well. The words I typed in 2020 are finally starting to sink into my soul and I am realizing that my aim for this year should be to learn the art of wasting time well.

Madeleine L’Engle, a long-time inspiration of mine, writes in Walking on Water that she cannot function as either an artist or a Christian without her “being” time. By this, she means time where she can simply exist, sitting in nature and solitude and listening to the movement of the creative, sanctifying Spirit. Priest and academic, Romano Guardini, captures exactly what I hope to achieve (or not achieve, depending on how you look at it) in 2022:

“The soul must learn to abandon, at least in prayer, the restlessness of purposeful activity; it must learn to waste time for the sake of God…It must learn not to be continually yearning to do something, to attack something, to accomplish something useful, but to play the divinely ordained game of the liturgy in liberty and beauty and holy joy before God.”

Nathan J. Knutson, “Factum Est Silentium in Cælo: The Silence of Sound in the Heavenly Liturgy and the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy.” Sacred Music 141, no. 3 (Fall 2014): 21.

In 2022, I will continue to hold to my lifelong aspirations. I still long to finish my novel, publish more frequently, study more scripture, run longer distances, develop my career as a musician and editor, and invest in our new church home. Equally important, however, will be reading more novels, writing for pleasure over publication, sitting in prayer, going for aimless walks, working on puzzles, baking comfort foods, and practicing hospitality.

By this time next year, I hope to have accomplished some if not many of my self-assigned tasks. I also hope to have cultivated a more contented spirit by practicing stillness and “wasting time for the sake of God.”

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