taking time versus making time


If you’re anything like me, you probably spent some part of your life misunderstanding another person’s interaction with you as something it wasn’t. And you, like me, fell prey to mistaking taking time versus making time.

The more two people interact, the more of a connection develops between them. Friends, with few exceptions, become closer because of the greater amount of interaction between them. When people go beyond attraction and ‘fall in love’, they do so because there is a level of intimacy and affection which grows with the amount of time that is invested.

What complicates things is what kind of time is taken.

Anyone can take time for someone else. It’s part of their day, which may be meaningful, but is not necessarily demonstrative of compassion or love. Taking time is finding 20 minutes on a lunch break to talk sports with a co-worker, grabbing a convenient cup of coffee when nothing else is going on, chatting via social media because nothing else is going on or you can’t sleep. It’s not patronizing, but it’s no big deal, either. There is nothing risked or sacrificed in taking time.

Making time, on the other hand, is something different. Being awakened in the middle of the night because a family member is sick. Giving up your time at work to be with someone who needs a friend. Letting go of a huge opportunity, laying down your life for a friend.

Time here is not used, but made. It’s clearing off the schedule because life cannot get in the way of what needs to be done. It’s not killing time, because anyone can be present with someone else when neither person has anything better to do, but willingly giving up time to be present for someone else. Taking time will allow someone to explore affection, making time is an exercise in it.

In the church, we’re good at blurring this line: your pastors might take time for you, shaking your hand on a Sunday morning, but he probably won’t wake up in the night to come be with you in the hospital; after all, that’s what the pastoral care pastor–for those of you unfamiliar with evangelical nonsense, yes, this is what they’re actually called–is for, right? You can call in your troubles to a prayer chain, but only expect the person who has allotted her time to volunteer to actually pay a visit.

The same corollary applies to professional athletes: while it’s good PR to involve a team in the community, they’re generally not making time for the community, but cynically doing jumping jacks with kids which reinforces the franchise’s brand in the market. People like the late Ray Nitschke or Cal Ripken, Jr. are rarities because they were and are so generous with their time. Ripken’s willingness to sign autographs for fans is the stuff of recent legend, while Nitschke, the legendarily fierce hall of fame linebacker for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s, gave liberally of himself when my family met him at an autograph session in the late 80s. Contrast that with Terrell Owens, who, while in the throes of existential oblivion, found time to appear on pop pap afternoon television trying to garner sympathy for wasting millions of dollars and being reckless with his breeding, but couldn’t be brought to fulfill his obligation as part of a third-tier indoor football team’s visit to the local pediatric ward, according to a recent piece on Grantland.com.

We’re just too busy to make time for anything or anyone. Of course, within the economy of human relationships, we’re not built to make time for anyone (which, going back to the religious angle, should inform our ecclesiology–that is, if we actually had taken [or made??] time to develop one that could be further informed in the first place), so taking time for someone can be perfect acceptable and virtuous in itself. It’s just that in all the time we take to be with the people for which we care, we misconstrue that, either as sender or receiver, for making time. Two people talking because each cannot sleep isn’t making time, but taking time.

And that’s where the boy can think one thing, the girl something else. This is the source of ladder theory disunion, where awkward enters the conversation. (For those of you who recognize these concepts, yes, I just connected Bonhoeffer with one of the most accurate, yet misogynistic and bitter websites ever put on the interwebs.) This is also why we choose to take or make time, if we made time for everyone, it would render us null and void. And we wonder why sexually-prolific people so often have no souls, or one night stands are no big deal to some people.

If we take time for people, we are giving within our means, and the authenticity of such time is entirely up to us. Making time has no litmus test, for sacrifice is inherently authentic. Sacrifice is the highest form of authenticity. You want to see the hipsters really love you? Put on some jeans that actually fit you and cut off your beard (mustache included.) You want to make yourself clear? Tell her you love her and don’t hold it back. Meet the need of someone else by giving up your ability to live your life according to your terms. Lay yourself down, and see who picks you up or who proceeds to run you over. The truth hurts, which is why we go to such great lengths to conceal it.

Take time to be with the ones in your life and make time for the ones you love.

By way of a related postscript, it’s not just the fourth of July, it’s Independence Day. Thousands have sacrificed their time and lives to uphold audacious principles of liberty and justice, while we tend to take time off to shoot off Chinese fireworks and eat too much grilled food. I need not go all ‘MURICA on you to say that I’m grateful to those who have gone before to help build a nation where people are free from tyranny. May we be, as Jefferson admonished, continually vigilant in defending these principles.

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