What do you understand by the term ‘time out’? And, according to your understanding, is it a helpful concept or not?
There are a number of dictionary definitions, including:
- a brief period of time during which a misbehaving child is put on their own so they can regain control over their emotions. (Sometimes known as the ‘naughty step’ time out)
- a time of withdrawal for rest or recreation away from one’s usual work or studies
The naughty step wasn’t a feature of my childhood although I have to admit that, had it been, I would’ve risked spending an inordinate amount of time sitting on the stairs! I suspect that it’s not just children who might benefit from this strategy; some grown-ups might also do well from it. Indeed, I’ve done that very thing; not in the sense of ‘naughty step’ discipline but rather in the sense of a period of withdrawal for rest and recuperation – my much preferred option!
It’s a truly lovely thing to be able to take time out from our often-overloaded schedules. Sometimes we need that time simply to recharge our batteries and other times our need is greater and our quest for time out has more to do with finding solace, healing and resolution.
A couple of years ago, in response to a perceived need for calm and perspective on a perplexing and difficult situation, I took a month out from everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary; social events, social media, projects and interests. In their place, I substituted focussed prayer, scripture meditation and quiet reflection. It wasn’t a discipline that came easily to me but it yielded quite the most rewarding results including a tremendous sense of peace that was both as enduring as it was fully comprehensive.
The reality was that, rather than taking TIME OUT from my situation, I was actually taking TIME IN God’s protective, loving care.
Like many Christians, I subscribe to the principle that faith in God is so much more than a religion; it is, in fact, a personal relationship. Christ Himself declared: ‘I have called you friends…’ (John 15:15)
What an amazing privilege it is to be a friend of God not least because He’s a friend like no other. Quite simply, no-one loves us as He does. ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:13)
And that’s exactly what Christ did for us at a time when we were fully alienated from Him. ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:6-8)
Christ’s friendship is an ‘all-weather’ deal; He invites us to come to Him whenever we’re worn out and overwhelmed with our circumstances ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28)
He also invites us to come to Him whenever we simply need a break. ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ (Mark 6:31)
And His friendship is unparalleled in its generosity. ‘You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You.’ (Psalm 86:5) Who wouldn’t want a friend like this?
This makes me think about what kind of friends I want to have and, perhaps more importantly, what kind of friend I want to be.
What would I think of a friend who only ever contacted me when they were in difficulty or need?
What would I think of a friend who only turned up in response to a specific invitation from me but who, otherwise, would never take the time to get in touch?
What would I think of a friend who only wanted me for what I can give?
How much it must please God when we seek Him simply because we love Him.
How much must it please Him when we seek the Giver rather than His gifts.
And how much it please Him when we worship Him as we ought.
It grieves me that it took challenging circumstances to come to realise and experience the unmitigated joy of spending concentrated, quality time with God but if there was ever a ‘silver lining’ to a particular trial, this must surely be it!
Time alone with God on a daily basis is essential for any believer and it’s worth remembering that there are further significant benefits in spending additional concentrated and focussed time in His care. The wonderful thing is that God is fully and permanently accessible to those who truly, humbly and earnestly seek Him. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.’ (Jeremiah 29:13)
There’s certainly value in taking time out but, if the option is ‘time out’ on my own versus ‘time in’ under God’s care, I’ll take ‘time in’ every time, all the time and in every situation!