At the Mercy of Time
by Rev. Ivan Herman
Wilderness experts will tell you to prioritize your needs in order to increase your odds of surviving a crisis situation. Most important is shelter, then water, then fire, and finally food. We can survive without food for longer than we can water or shelter. However, in a long-term survival scenario, such simple categorizations break down. Without food, weakness sets in and the will to live and work (and the ability to do so smartly) diminishes. For far too many people, survival in our civilized context is a complex daily crisis, and the greatest challenge is prioritizing time.
Our family of four, with two adults and two school-age kids, followed a food stamp diet during Lent 2013. We allotted ourselves $1.10 per person, per meal for six weeks. We had shelter, water, and heat already; the budget constraints were limited to food. We found that our greatest challenge in preparing nutritious meals on a tight budget was not limited finances, but limited time. Preparing dry beans over canned beans saved at least a couple dollars per pound. Baking bread saved at least 50 cents per loaf. Cooking from scratch boosted the nutritional value of the food, but also boosted the amount of time required to prepare it. We estimate that we spent at least an hour per day in from-scratch food preparation above what we do normally, and compared to most American families, I believe we already do more from-scratch and less “semi-homemade” cooking already. Whether you’re wealthy or poor, time is always in such short supply. A pastor in Chicago contacted me to let me know that he and his congregation were pursuing a similar Lenten discipline. Three weeks into Lent, he had already failed in following their budget. It was time—not money—that did them in. They both had jobs, and spending the hours required to prepare dinner every night as they were between the daytime commute and evening commitments was beyond their managing. There is a reason why fast food and convenience food has become so popular in our society, and the reason is certainly not nutrition or value.
How have I allowed convenience or speed to dictate my health decisions? In what circumstances do I make convenience an idol? What are the danger signs that I’ve placed my value of time above all else, including God? How can I prioritize my time in order to live a life of justice?
Lord, I confess there are times when I’ve allowed speed and convenience to dictate my choices. Guard my heart against doing what is easy, and instead guide me into what is right and good, that my health, my body, my relationships, and my time may be used in worthy service to you and to others. Amen.
Photo by Rev. MargaretAnne Overstreet
Ivan Herman is the associate pastor at Carmichael Presbyterian Church in Carmichael, CA. He is a husband, father, oddball, activist, peacemaker, occasional triathlete, and all-around nice guy. Yuck. He sometimes tweets from @ivanherman and blogs at 40daysofSNAP.wordpress.com.