The world goes round each day. The sun always rises in the east and it always sets in the west, and the next day it returns to the same place. People drive to work and people drive home. The freeways get clogged the same time each day. Only to get clogged again the next. You can empty your inbox at the end of the day, only to find it has filled again by the same time tomorrow. Sometimes life feels a bit monotonous.
Sometimes life is exhilarating. Anyone who has been a student or worked on an exciting project knows the pressure of approaching deadlines. When schedules get full and projects mount, it can feel like running on a treadmill, speeding up with no end in sight. Day-by-day the pressure builds, and it crowds out everything else in life.
Whether monotonous or stress-filled, life has a way of crowding out our willingness to spend time on activities that feel "impractical," but are essential for our souls and our creative energies. When we get up in the morning, rather than taking time to be quiet - spending time in prayer, meditating on God's Word or journaling - the pressure of the day assaults us like cold water to the face.
The need to accomplish
We feel an intense need to accomplish something in our days and lives. Utility and pragmatic solutions press hard against us. In the world of ministry, or much of life, we fail to step back and take time for reflective work. For creative work. For the life of the mind.
I recently had lunch with a friend, and as we discussed what it means to truly be God's people in the world - what it means to be The Church, I was reminded that I often fail to take time to think deeply about important issues. I am pulled quickly to the practical, the immediate, the useful. Carving out time to read, write, create, dream, pray, journal or just think is hard. It feels like a tug of war for my time. And the immediate seems much stronger in its pull.
Do you create time in the present to invest in what feels like a waste? Or do looming deadlines crowd it out? Do you create moments in your days to not accomplish a task, but to invest in the immeasurable and impractical?
Creating space for extravagant waste
There is a video by Sara Groves, a singer-songwriter based out of the Twin Cities. In the video, she reflects on a blog post by Makoto Fujimura, in which she quotes him saying, "Pragmatism and utility have infected every area of life, every institution... primarily the church." Sometimes the space we create, that doesn't always seem pragmatic or useful is "extravagantly wasteful."
I appreciate her reflections, which you can watch in this short (2:30) video:
Our society focuses on Utility and Pragmatism - and it is has crept into The Church as well. Everything must be useful. But that is not always the way of God. Makoto Fujimura is a prominent artist in New York, who loves Jesus. You can read his blog post - the one Sara Groves quotes - here.
And here is a neat video about Makoto illuminating The Four Holy Gospels for Crossway in order to commemorate of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version Bible.
God's economy is not our economy
I am not like Makoto Fujimura. He is an artist, who is fully immersed in the artists life. I am not like Sara Groves. She also creates in a way that I am not wired. Fujimura and Groves are artists, who push hard against the utilitarian and pragmatic society in which we live. They push hard against the way my personality naturally flows. While I am not an artist in the sense of Fujimura and Groves, I do have a desire to create. I like to write, to share in the beauty of creating. I write to bring glory to God and good to others. And their words are helpful to me as I consider my own life.
God does not always gain the most glory in what is most useful and most efficient. That is not the economy of God. He is notorious for using things that seem impractical to the world. Sometimes he is most glorified in what would be deemed wasteful to the world. God's wisdom is not ours.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)
From the world's point of view, there was nothing more wasteful, nothing more foolish than the crucified Christ. Why would God subject himself to that sort of suffering? Why would the innocent die for the blemished? Why would the perfect die for the imperfect? Why would the sinless suffer a sinner's death? The only real answer is love and beauty. Love for His people and being glorified in the beauty of this sacrificial act.
Make time to do the impractical
Investing in the impractical is not easy. It takes effort and it takes intentionality. For the sake of clarity, this is not the same as being truly wasteful. Rejecting pragmatism, only to find yourself binging on social media, television, food or folly is not what I am talking about.
The intentional investment in the extravagant waste that Sara Groves talks about, that Makoto Fujimura writes about or that we see in the death of Jesus does not happen by accident. We do not stumble into this sort of living. It will be a fight, because everything in our world and our culture will pull you into the monotony, the stress-filled projects or the truly wasteful entertainment binge.
Make time this week to be extravagantly wasteful. Take the time to have a true Sabbath. Take the time to think about theology. Take the time to read your Bible. Take the time to have a conversation with someone that may not feel "strategic" but simply to nourish their soul (and yours). Take the time to pray, unhurried prayers. Take the time to create. Take the time to meditate on a passage of Scripture. Take the time to paint. Take the time write. Take the time to go on a walk. Take the time to listen to good music.
Take the time to invest in your soul. To draw close to God. To push hard against the world that will want to collapse upon the time you have set-aside. Make time to do the impractical. Make time for extravagant waste.