Becoming Whole in Fragments of Time
by Darla Isackson
Feeling fragmented is a common experience in modern society-but perilous because it is symptomatic of spiritual sickness, even spiritual starvation. As disciples of Christ we desire to be, instead, spiritually healthy and whole, with body, mind, and spirit functioning harmoniously to accomplish the Lord’s specific will for us moment by moment-and letting go of all other priorities peacefully. How is that remotely possible in a world that calls out with hundreds of priorities and options for every moment of our time?
Time Limitations are Part of Our Test in Mortality
Time is a thought-provoking subject; how we choose to use our time is crucial to our very salvation. In the scriptures time is referred to in many ways: in the Lord’s due time, in the fulness of time, signs of the times, times and seasons. We are told not to idle away our time, that this life is the time to prepare to meet God, that in the Last Days perilous times will come and if we do not improve our time in this life, then cometh the night of darkness.
The D&C refers to God’s time, angel’s time, prophets’ time and man’s time reckoned according to the planet on which they reside, that the Lord will hasten his work in its time and that for the elect’s sake these days-the last days-shall be shortened. That seems to be the only explanation for how the days and years fly by. We are told that after Satan is bound, time is no longer, that there shall be time no more. It is hard to comprehend having all eternity with no time limitations and no more measurements of minutes and hours-no more fragments of time, no more being fragmented.
Neal Maxwell said, “Time isn’t your natural dimension. There are days when you wish that time would pass quickly, and it won’t, and there are days when you wish you could hold back the dawn, and you can’t. A fish is at home in the water, but we aren’t at home in time; we belong to eternity. If we were really at home in time we wouldn’t wear wrist watches and have clocks on the wall. We have to function in time, but in those moments when life presses in upon you, remember you are struck out of eternity.” Because we have time pressures and must choose every moment, time-use choices become an important part of the test of mortality.
To help us function better in this foreign dimension of time I hope to provide in this article the best reasons you’ve ever heard to stop hurrying as well as ways to find peace through obtaining a more Godly perspective of time.
The Hurry Syndrome
“Hurry, we’ll be late!” “Quick, get this done before supper!” “There’s so much to do. Hurry faster!’
When all my children were still young, my whole life seemed filled with hurrying, and I became very tired-in fact, bone weary. One morning, from the moment I awoke, my mind was heavy and haunted with hurry. It seemed I’d always been in a hurry-but wasn’t that good? After all, weren’t we supposed to work while the sun shines, be in pursuit of excellence, and lengthen our stride? How could we fulfill the long list of righteous goals the Church sets before us and not hurry? Surely the more we hurry, the more people we can serve, the more scriptures we can read, the more lessons we can teach, the better we can help build the kingdom.
Still, this pressured way of life had sometimes become drudgery, and no matter how fast I hurried, I never accomplished what I felt I should. Trying to live joyfully was just too hard, and there weren’t enough hours in the day. It seemed the only solution was to get up an hour before I went to bed!
Too often the harvest of this frantic lifestyle had been frustration, poor health, confusion, and loss of personal peace-quite the opposite from the fruits that are supposed to come from gospel living. There had to be an answer to get me back on track. I went to the window and looked out at the mountains-still snow-capped but beginning to green in the new spring warmth. I decided to take a walk.
It was early morning, the air smelled wonderfully fresh, and the trees were just leafing out. But my mind was whirling with insistent questions: Was hurry essential? Wasn’t it righteous? Was there any way to avoid it?
I decided the cemetery would be a good place to walk as I thought through the hurry problem. Nobody was hurrying there!
The cemetery had beautifully manicured grounds and great trees spreading protective branches over the peaceful dead. Had they, too, raced through their days, concerned about meeting obligations, getting to appointments, keeping up with demands? What would they tell me now, if they could, about what really matters?
I knew Goethe’s saying, “Things which matter most must never be left at the mercy of things which matter least.” But too many things in my life seemed to matter most, and there never seemed to be enough time to do them all justice. The quiet things seemed easiest to leave out: a walk in the early morning freshness, meaningful prayer and meditation, sweet moments with the scriptures, and precious time with the children.
As I walked, a sentence I had read recently came to me and struck a nagging chord in my mind. It had bothered me at the time, because I had been so certain that all my efforts to hurry were somehow good. The thought was: “Hurry is of the devil.” I pondered and prayed about that idea. When I tried to imagine the Savior hurrying, I found it impossible. Yet He never idled away His time or failed to do His Father’s will. I thought of Christlike friends who radiate serenity and joy. They do things the Lord’s way and are unmoved by undue pressures from the outside world. One of my deepest desires was to be like them. With the newness of spring all around me, I started down a new, more peaceful path as my solution became suddenly clear.
The Savior said, “Come follow me.” (Certainly not, “Hurry and follow me!”) If I thought carefully of His character, His life, His manner of living and doing, I would have a perfect measuring stick to determine the place of hurry in my life, I returned home and wrote a list of the most obvious Christlike traits. Then I listed their opposites.
Christlike Traits Opposites
Accepting of people and reality-Kicking against the pricks
Loving Controlling-loving if others meet conditions
Unmoved by outer pressures-Driven by the winds and tossed
Centered on the Father’s will-Centered on self-will
Serene, tranquil-In turmoil, tense, irritable
Calm, unhurried-Rushed, agitated
Full of faith and hope-Full of doubt, skepticism
Peaceful, composed-Worried, out of control
Warm, kind, compassionate, people-oriented-Cold, brusque, sharp, task-oriented
Clear-minded, receptive to the Spirit-Confused, too-busy mind, closed to promptings
Positive and alive in the moment-Unaware of good in the moment
Contented, joyful-Frustrated, angry, full of regret
There I had it: the opposites described the Hurry Syndrome-the list of my worst feelings when hurry is uppermost in my mind. No trace of doubt remained; hurry is of the devil. It has the potential to destroy personal peace and mar the beauty of our lives.
The Hurry Syndrome, I quickly discovered, has nothing to do with moving quickly, being productive, or feeling the excitement of making a positive difference. In fact, it is the enemy to these. Hurry tends to make us inefficient, unproductive, and discouraged, as well as irritable, angry, and self-centered.
Hurry is the outward response to an internal pressure we ourselves create by believing we should be able to do more than is wise, or even possible-and by failing to focus on “the one thing that is needful.” Hurry creates an inability to enjoy the present moment because our expectations for that moment are unrealistic or misguided. In short, the feeling of hurry is a product of believing things that are not true and responding to messages that are not coming from the Holy Ghost.
A decision to stop hurrying may be easy. Stopping is not! Hurry is a bad habit that cannot be simply abandoned but must be replaced by good habits. Even with a strong awareness of its negative effects, there were times I regressed, and the pattern of my day would go something like this: I wake up with a knot in my stomach caused by the certain knowledge I can’t possibly finish everything on my “must do” list. I take no time for scriptures and prayer, but begin immediately to rush around, my inner pressure and irritability eliciting resistance and lack of cooperation from family members. By noon I have a tension headache and seem to be going in circles. When I run errands, I forget half the things I need and don’t get much accomplished. I feel out of control and pushed around by the things that must be done, and just as I suspected early on, I let several important things fall through the cracks-including rest and rejuvenation-and end my day exhausted, frustrated, deflated. That kind of day gave me great motivation to regroup and follow the guidelines I have found to be most effective in my “anti-hurry campaign.” Because of these guidelines I can honestly say I rarely hurry anymore. What a relief!
1. Make a renewed commitment to focus on replacing the Hurry Syndrome with the Savior’s example.
2. Ask for spiritual help when planning the day. (Remember: one bucket can’t water the whole world, but it can make a small spot nice and green.) Ask in fervent prayer for the Lord’s help in setting priorities, knowing I can do nothing important without His help and that only He knows what is most important to accomplish in any given time period.
3. Purposely schedule quiet times and calming influences: music, exercise, meditation, scripture reading, prayer time. Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us, “Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to think, time to contemplate what’s working and what’s not, so that we can make changes for the better . . . Learn how to pause.”
4. Place printed reminders around the house, such as D&C 10:4 “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
A Time for Every Purpose
Many years ago during a ward conference I learned an unforgettable lesson about not only doing the right thing, but doing it at the right time. With all the stake dignitaries looking on, I was accompanying the ward choir when suddenly the music I was playing was obviously not what the choir was singing. It took me nearly a page to figure out that I was the one messing things up-because I KNEW I was playing all the right notes. Before the meeting, one of the brethren, trying to be helpful, had taken the pages of the song and taped them together so I wouldn’t have to turn pages-but the pages were in the wrong order!
I’ve wondered since then how many times in my life I’ve been playing all the right notes, but at the wrong time. Learning how to determine the Lord’s will for us in this particular season or this particular moment may be the most important thing we ever learn. Only the Lord knows our individual capacities and the priorities most crucial for our current season. He will help us stay on the right page, and will never expect more than we can deliver. That assurance always feels like spring’s new green to my hurry-wintered heart.
Peace Through Perspective
Ultimately, glimpses of the way God sees time can best free us of the Hurry Syndrome. Wayne E. Brickey suggests that “Time grips only those who fear it. Because we have to live within time to transcend it, the patient person adopts the honest and eternal as a clock, which slows down or speeds up as needed to keep pace with God . . . Only eternity is a long time. All other periods are mere moments among the eons.”
Since 100 years is only a day in God’s time, our lifetime struggles with our weaknesses only seem to us to string out forever. The Lord must view our life as a quick progression of steps leading us closer and closer to Him. He knows the beginning from the end. He knows that all those headed in the right direction are eventually going to make it. This knowledge eclipses all anxiety. He sees us following the plan of eternal progression line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, until we return triumphant. Our weaknesses and stumblings along the way must seem quite irrelevant to Him because He knows we will eventually overcome them. He certainly doesn’t identify us with them as we are prone to do.
If we can learn to see things more nearly as God sees them, we can be so much more believing, charitable, and patient with ourselves. If we can focus on our righteous desires and see the process of perfection as God must surely see it-with total belief in our ability to keep moving along the path with His help-then we will be undaunted by delays and detours. Most importantly, we can learn to be compassionate and forgiving to ourselves, as Christ would have us be.
It Came to Pass
I memorized a poem when I was in college that went like this:
Look to this day, for it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief hours lie all the verities and realities of your existence
The bliss of growth, the joy of discovery, the splendor of achievement
For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is but a vision
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day.
Sometimes today’s growth can be a lot more pain than bliss and our most splendiforous achievement can be cleaning up still another sticky gooey mess when our toddlers pull two dozen eggs out of the refrigerator and dance in them, and the main thing we discover-and not very joyfully-may be our weaknesses. But that’s okay if we are learning to see things the Lord’s way, the only viewpoint that is true and faithful.
It is so easy to lose perspective and conclude that the way things are right now is the way they will stay. However, the scriptures say repeatedly, “It came to pass,” not “it came to stay.” I had this principle brought clearly to my mind one day while driving on the freeway. I had an appointment and hadn’t allowed much of a time cushion, so was dismayed when I came upon a traffic jam. I was in the left lane, which, along with the center lane, was going nowhere, but the right lane was moving. No-one was about to let me change lanes, however, and I was becoming stressed and giving up all hopes of getting to my appointment on time. Just one mile down the road, however, the traffic began to flow normally again. I was instantly struck with the clear analogy of my shortsightedness. How many times had I become upset over circumstances beyond my control that I was afraid would go on for a long time, only to smile in amazement at how quickly they changed.
The Patience of Faith
Paul said to the Corinthians, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Afflictions never feel like a small moment, but with the Lord’s help, we can keep the perspective that they are. With deep trust in the Lord, we can also remember that there are blessings to be reaped from our days of trial and testing.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 4: 3-5)
Patience is a vital virtue that seems to be cultivated only by necessity. Did anyone ever choose the prolonged difficulties that necessitate the development of a patient spirit? Yet patience keeps us whole, unfragmented, as we wait for answers to prayers, deliverance from suffering, positive changes. My friend once commented that patience is not passive, however, that it is an action word. That thought struck me and I went home and wrote about it:
“Lord, give me patience,” I pleaded, “Right now!”I knew my urgent prayer for patience was misguided; Patience must be earned through hopeful waiting. The “hopeful ” part, however, means patience is not passive, but like a verb, is an action word. I continue to strive, continue to move ahead as I wait, but I do not kick against the pricks. I win Patience when I say, “Thy will be done” instead of “I want it now.” When I honor agency, safeguard others right to choose, I may suffer inconvenience, disappointment, even pain . . . but win Patience.
When I seek God’s counsel instead of counseling Him to do things my way in my time frame, I win Patience. Patience is the fruit of faith. Faith, too, an action word-my faith in God’s word, His plan, His timing, moves me to all good works, to keep an active trust . . .Trusting God in all things moves me to . . . Practice peaceful patience-actively!
Wayne E. Brickey, on p. 51 of his book Making Sense of Suffering, explains the fruits of active patience: “Faith gives us patience. [And, conversely, patience gives us more faith.] The patience of faith is called long-suffering. Is it painful? No, quite the opposite. Because patience invites meaning, dignity, and the companionship of heaven, it relieves pain of mind. It enables us to last. Real patience really is patient-no fidgeting, no frustration beneath the surface, no pacing back and forth. Patience does not mind waiting. It bends meekly before the necessary and stands firm before the unnecessary, never cowering or pouting. It inherits the earth. Nothing quite compares to the rest and freedom of a life lived in patient faith.” His describes Christlike virtues, again the very opposite of the Hurry Syndrome.
Living “In the Moment”
I love this poem that so beautifully expresses why we need to make good choices in this one present fragment of time, and patiently trust the rest to the Lord. I don’t know who the author is.
I was regretting the past
And fearing the future
And suddenly my Lord was speaking:
“My name is I Am” he said.
I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets
It is hard. I am not there
MY name is not I Was
“When you live in the future with its problems and fears
It is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I will be.
“When you live in this moment, it is not hard.
I am here.
My name is I AM”
This moment is all we have. This fragment of time weaves itself into all eternity and our choices in each fragment of time determine our destiny.
When we choose to trust God and accept his grace and his love, the joy of the gospel finally becomes real in our lives. Stepping into God’s care is a gentle step-one that brings peace and harmony, the only thing that can truly make us whole in any fragment of time in our lives. When we turn to Him we find reassurance of the purpose of our lives-how utterly irreplaceable we are to those who love us, how utterly impossible it would be for someone else to accomplish the work of our lives, and how totally and unconditionally we are loved by our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ. I like to think of Christ’s atonement as at-one-ment-making us one with Him, becoming whole through His healing and redemptive power. Now, this moment, is the time to feel His love, partake of his atonement and become whole.
2002 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.