This piece was featured as a nationally syndicated column by GateHouse Media.
Recently, I returned to my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s funny how when you return home, the memories start pouring in. For example, as the plane was landing, I spied an old, abandoned parking lot with weeds and broken asphalt at the end of the runway. Seconds later, as the plane touched down, images of my childhood began to emerge.
It was in that old parking lot that my dad and I would hang out on lazy Saturday afternoons, sitting in our lawn chairs, eating peanuts and watching the planes come and go. While to some that may sound pedestrian, we loved it. It was our time. Quality time with just us — no agenda, nothing to do, nowhere to go. We didn’t even really say that much. It was just wasting time watching the planes—together.
In thinking back on that memory, I began to realize that “wasting time” with those you love is, perhaps, one of the most important things you can do. Spending unstructured time together helps you reconnect, bond and build intimacy, honesty, and trust. It makes you stronger.
So, if it’s so important in our human relationships, why don’t we ever talk about wasting time with God? Quality time with just you and God — no agenda, nothing to do, nowhere to go, not even really saying that much. Just wasting time together.
Thanks to our modern-day views of efficiency, wasting time with God may strike many as a bad thing. Our society is all about multitasking, results, and getting a lot done in a short amount of time. Our mantra is: To do more is to have more and to have more is to be more.
The Internet has exacerbated the issue. Recently, I discovered some mind-bending global statistics: 281 billion emails are sent each day, and over 200,000 text messages are sent per second. Think about the amount of information that comes through your computer and phone every day. To survive in this crazy cyber world, we have to be able to multitask with lightning efficiency.
And so, in this giant cyber gerbil wheel of efficiency, we relegate God only to times and places that are productive and useful. Like church. Church is very efficient — you meet God for an hour, you see your friends, have a cup of coffee, and you’re done for the week.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the church. As an ordained minister, I have dedicated my life to the church. But if you only consign God to one hour a week from 11 a.m.–12 p.m. on Sunday, that leaves 167 other hours. One out of 168 is not the ratio of someone who prioritizes the holy.
In her book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, theologian and priest Barbara Brown Taylor argues that the whole world is the house of God: “Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.”
She then tenders these two poignant questions: “Do we build God a house so that we can choose when to go see God? Do we build God a house in lieu of having God stay at ours?”
The world is so full of opportunities to draw near to and “waste time” with God. Yet, we continue to prioritize productivity. Maybe somewhere deep down, we think that if we are less productive, we will be less loved. News flash: The value of our lives has nothing to do with whether we’re efficient or productive. Our innate worth was given to us the second we were born, and no one can take that away.
This week, waste a little time with those you love. Intentionally leave unscheduled gaps in your day — time that has little to do with attaining or achieving but everything to do with building and bonding. Commit to time with no agenda, nothing to do, nowhere to go, and where you don’t even really say that much.
Remember, God is with us every moment waiting — longing to spend time with us. As James 4:5 teaches, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.” Make that relationship your priority. Give God the gift of more than 1:168. This week, pledge to yourself: I will make time to waste time with God.