Disruptions, Interruptions, and Time
I am currently rereading C.S. Lewis’ insightful book, The Screwtape Letters where Screwtape is counseling a younger devil, Wormwood, in how to make a man fall into sin. In the chapter I read this morning he was particularly interested in making the man ill-tempered and angry. I was struck by an insightful point Lewis makes in our natural temptation to think that we are the owners of the time that we have been given each day. Few things get under our skin as much as when our schedule gets interrupted and someone or something is taking more of our time than it should. Screwtape’s advice is to cause the man to “regard his time as his own and feel that it is being stolen. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours.” With that mindset in place, any disruption to one’s schedule is a clear impingement on one’s time and it feels as though the time is being stolen. No doubt, time is a precious commodity and one that needs to be stewarded well. However, it is so easy to slip into the mindset that the time we have been given is more than ours to use, but rather a commodity that we own. Screwtape’s admonition is to not even allow the thought to come into the man’s mind that time is a gift. “Wrap a darkness about it, and in the center of that darkness let his sense of ownership-in-time lie silent, uninspected and operative.”
Why does this matter? It is so easy to get frustrated when someone interrupts my schedule. The disruptions and interruptions that take up “my time” often lead to unnecessary frustration, even anger, and we never realize that the time “lost” wasn’t ours to begin with. Not only does this apply to interruptions, but also to the daily menial tasks that take up time. In reality they haven’t “stolen” my time because it wasn’t mine in the beginning. God is the creator of time and He is the one who rules and overrules the time, even our daily calendar. While we are the recipients of 24 hours each day, God is free to edit my calendar each day. How often this happens! However, the reality is how much more patient and long-suffering would we be if we lived out the principle that “my time” is not my own. Rather than angry, hurried, and rushed, we would find joy, peace, and patience.