Folk singer David LaMotte has a song with a chorus, “There’s no time like the present…and there’s no present like time.” In today’s post, pastor Jeni Grangaard invites us to slow down, take note, and become aware of our gifts beyond money. Our gift of now. It’s a post that, I hope, will cause us to breathe a bit differently, to pray a bit differently, to live a bit differently. Even now.
Center for Stewardship Leaders
The Stewardship of Now
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
-- Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
In Jerusalem, my best days start with a walk in the Wallaja Valley. It’s a place that holds light and darkness with equal beauty as sun and shadowy mist streak through the trees after sunrise. Its fecund ground holds vibrant rock and blooming wildflowers, hedged by rosemary, sage, and wild thyme.
On my walks this spring, I noticed how the light green tufts, thirsty for chlorophyll, poked through their buds, folded against each other, styled like spiky hair. As the weeks stretched along, small fig leaf shapes slowly emerged. Tiny fruit appeared on the branch, cute in miniature form. Slowly, slowly over time the leaves have grown and taken their deeper color. Soon the fruit will add some purple to its green coat and be ripe for eating. And soon after that the fruit that is left will fall and rot, the fruit marking the ground, the trees once again bare and stark.
The time I have spent out of the United States has trained me to slow down and consider the lilies -- or wild poppies. The stewardship that comes to mind is the practice of slowing down: the stewardship of time.
Economics is a study in decision making. With the limited resources and in particular settings, what tools will one use to make the right choice? What is the most valuable commodity?
We so often think that it is money. Money can buy just about anything. Health care, a good education, nice clothes, a safe home and car.
Money can do a lot, but it is time that is more valuable. With time one can make more money. With time one can do it all -- or as women are often pressured, with more time, one can have it all.
But time is limited, a precious commodity, an un-renewable resource. We can’t buy it. We can hardly save it. We can only spend it, as Annie Dillard suggests.
Nina Simone once quipped to her live audience, “Time is a dictator,” before sliding into “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” We too will run out of time.
Returning to Mary Oliver: “Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
This question has inspired us. It has also put a pressure on many in their quarter-life crisis who shout: “I don’t know! There is so much time!” It has also offered a freedom to many in their midlife crisis who whisper: “Something else, I am running out of time.”
But the poem isn’t pushing us into the future. It is rooting us where we are. The poet does not ask us to hitch our wagon to the one blazing star that will plot the course for the rest of our lives.
The poet calls us to attention as if it was prayer. This is prayer, she offers -- not oratory, but openness, paying attention, being alive. What makes our lives wild and precious is the living of them.
The wild and precious life isn’t some possibility, waiting to be attained or perfectly curated. It is in the messy and fleeting present. It is here. It is now.
The wild and precious is the sideways moving jaws of the grasshopper as it chews the sugar cube.
Or the sticky sweet warmth of a four-year-old who asks to hold hands at bedtime.
It is the unfurling fig tree leaves. The wild flowers. The morning light that reflects my own being.
For More Information
Jeni Grangaard is a pastor in the ELCA, sent by Global Mission to serve as a Country Co-Coordinator for the Young Adults in Global Mission Program in Jerusalem and the West Bank. You can support Jeni's work through the ELCA's Global Church Sponsorship here.
Rethinking Stewardship: Join us on July 25-27 for three days of conversation and exploration at Luther Seminary's Rethinking Stewardship: From Solemn Obligation to Inspired Choice. More information here.