The action of those whose lives are given to the Spirit has in it something of the leisure of Eternity; and because of this, they achieve far more than those whose lives are enslaved by the rush and hurry, the unceasing tick-tick of the world. Otherwise we tend to forget that God, Who is greater than our heart, is greater than our job too.
— Evelyn Underhill, The Spiritual Life
I know I get caught up in the deadline syndrome: I have to get something done by a certain date or it won’t happen. I have to be ready to retire by the time I’m 65 (if not sooner). I have at least five more books I want to write between now and then, and probably others I haven’t thought of yet. If I don’t get such-and-such done by a certain date, then I won’t have time to complete the next task on my to-do list. And on and on it goes.
There’s nothing wrong with time management, with having a clear sense of specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-sensitive goals (SMART — get it?). I’m all for the seven habits of highly effective people, and so forth. But Evelyn Underhill reminds me that all my hard work takes on a richly different tone and feel when I keep my heart centered on “the leisure of Eternity” rather than the hustle and bustle of a life defined by the natural boundary of mortality.
I’ve heard it said that death is a gift to us, for it gets us motivated. I think there’s some truth in that. But if death is all we have, it can motivate us right to the pit of despair. So life “given to the Spirit” stands as a healthy corrective to the anxiety of mortality. And I’m not talking about life after death — but rather about life before death. From now until the moment of our final breath, we are all given a limited amount of life. Some of us have decades to go, others only a few days. And none of us know just how long. All we can rely on, all we truly have, is the present. The past is gone, and the future is uncertain. We are only given the present.
The question is, what are we to do with the gift we are given? Squander it in a frenzied effort to somehow make it more than it is — or relax into the sense of spaciousness that comes with knowing that there is something much, much bigger than me? I’ll go with the “bigger than me,” for it assures me of something stronger than death: love. With that, I can let that bigger-than-me-love take care of the future, and focus my own heart, my own humble capacity to love, on being truly present, here in the present. It’s by resting in love that, on even my busiest days, I am somehow given the ability to find that “something of the leisure of Eternity” that breathes space into the present moment, no matter how busy I might be.