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In our house, waste is sinful. We do not waste paper or food, water or fuel, money or talents. Everything is put to good use. We scrimp and save, cut coupons (well, I do!) and search for bargains. Trips to town are strategically mapped to afford the most return for the least amount of energy. Even vacations are plotted and planned to the minute.
Despite my desire to dispense with schedules and relax for a while, Hubby Dear proclaims the sacredness of Now and is dismayed if a single second of “now time” is lost.
There is a degree of accuracy in his proclamation. After all, we have only the present moment in which to live. There is no certain knowledge of our next breath, to say nothing of the distant future. However, we can fall into the trap of attaching productivity to the present moment and miss its essential value.
That’s what I heard on the second day of our annual weeklong vacation treat, the stipend received for our facilitating the worship service and preaching at Holden Beach Interdenominational Chapel.
Every year I look forward to this time away from our usual routine. I anticipate the beach experience, although we live on a creek and enjoy its unique ambiance. It’s getaway time that I treasure. It’s “do-nothing” time that is precious. Preparation makes that possible, of course, but the effort is similar to cutting coupons to retrieve the reward of spending less and saving more.
We had no sooner settled into our new space when I heard the dreaded comment, “Well, I got nothing accomplished today. It was a waste of time.” My innards groaned with the perceived negativity. I was relaxing in the sea breezes, doing nothing but finding joy in being alive and thinking that was sufficient grace for the day.
Without a second’s notice, my retort came from the core of my being. I asked, “Did you breathe today?” His smile indicated that he got the message, but I couldn’t let it go. “Then you’re alive. I guess it wasn’t a wasted day after all.” With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “That’d make a good column.”
So, here I am, pondering what it means to waste time and know that it is divinely productive. My youngest sister understands the process. Her advice to me was to see like a seagull and watch what happens. I couldn’t do it. It was not that her suggestion was beyond my ken. It was my innate distrust of seagulls. They are, for me, omnipresent givers of unwanted gifts plopped onto unsuspecting heads or cars, or unguarded chairs left in the open air. Their loud, raucous cries do not commend them to my consideration.
Pelicans, however, are a different breed. I can more easily see as a pelican, be a pelican, and discover the wonders of soaring grace from their perspective. From the porch of our treasure spot, I view a whole pelican family. Rarely do I see a sole flyer. I watch, in silence, as they glide over the waters. Each individual seems to recognize its space and place. No one tries to overtake the other. Instead, they fly as a unit—alternately their ride on unseen air drafts with flight propelled by flapping wings. They are “alone-together;” individuals unified by a common purpose. If hunger strikes, each dives headfirst into the sea, retrieving a meal before continuing the journey.
I see gracefulness when all appears to be graceless. I see loveliness, regal bearing in a body that sports a large bill and short legs, disproportion that defies standards of beauty.
I have no idea where they are going. I am not even sure that I am seeing the same pelicans traveling back and forth, or different ones. It is not important. All I know is these creatures take me back into prehistoric times and help me to find peace in the present day.
Flying with them means surrendering my individual desires to the needs of the group. It means following a straight line, finding respite in thermal currents that support me when I am weary, knowing when to dive for nurture, when to keep on going, and when to stop and ride the waves.
I waste time watching my pelican pals. I give myself the pleasure of silent speculation, of wonderment. I listen for their voices. Hearing none, I must learn the art of nonverbal communication. Body language is dialogue as well as sound. I must capture the unspoken call seen in another’s eyes.
My wasted time is priceless. There can be no dollar value placed on the heart knowledge I am receiving. To be one among equals is to lead by following. It is to find the best feeding grounds and share the discovery. It is to work together for the good of all.
Most of all, when mine are the eyes of a pelican, I notice the power of the family group, complementing each other in the cooperative venture of life. Noted as a gregarious group, these birds draw attention to our human need for conviviality. We, too, are social beings who can survive a solitary existence but are profoundly deprived of life without the companionship of another human person. The harshest punishment comes with solitary confinement.
So, now I will waste time with others, especially with my Significant Other—and that is not only Hubby Dear, but also Savior Dear. I will sit in silent awe, absorbing God’s presence and receiving the present. I will fly in companionable solidarity with my Redeemer and his followers on the thermal currents of God’s spirit. I will dive into the nurturing waters of faith and rest comfortably on the waves of creativity. I will listen to the body language of divinity, hear the unspoken commission of God, and convey that commission as mission to the poor and needy. I will walk with regal elegance, not of my making but of God’s giving.
I will waste time—and know God.