Thursday, October 27, 2011

This short time

My last post lingered on my mind; this idea of time and patience and aspects such as the granting of a work visa being out of my control.

Being raised as a daughter of a financial advisor, I grew up with a concept of stewardship. That what I was given, what I was blessed with, should be handled in a way that was responsible and considerate of the future. It was a responsibility, not just a gift for me to throw around.
I never had an allowance as a child- I think my parents were against that terminology because it suggested 'allowing', which was not what they wanted to instill in their children. Instead, it was called a 'budget', which fulfilled the same category as the allowances my peers received, only under a different name.

Even as a child, and then a teen, I had this urgency around timing and my life. That I HAD to complete my dreams and goals as soon as possible. Not to rush them, or plow through anything hastily, but that in the near future I needed to grasp these things and live out my calling, put my talents to work and use my time well.
I graduated high school early, and I still remember the fervency in those months preparing for that, while I looked for something to do with the time before I would begin college. I couldn't waste that time- I had to do something good, something productive, something useful with those months.
My dream to reach 6 continents was achieved by the age of 21 (I never have any desire to visit Antarctica). My dream and calling to be a missionary was fulfilled when I was 18.
And all my life, I have this sense of urgency to use my time well.

That is in part why waiting for a work visa has been so frustrating. I feel like I am wasting my time- and I absolutely do not want to waste time.

But, maybe, that's not the proper perspective of this situation.

Matthew chapter 25 is the parable of the servants given talents/money from their master. Some versions say talents, some say gold, others silver. In any case, the servants were doled out bags full of money from their master.
When I was a child I did not like this parable because it did not seem fair: Servant 1 got 5 bags of gold, Servant 2, two bags, and Servant 3 one bag. That's not even! That's not fair! And in the end, the servant with the most bags was given even more!
And even now, I still have sympathy for the servant who did not grow the money.
The problem is that my perspective is that this money was given to the servants as their own to keep.
The scripture reads that this was 'entrusted to them'. It was not given as a gift, it did not become their property- it was the master's; who some day would be returning to claim it. The master was not being fair; it was not based on fairness. It clearly states that the amounts they were given was based on their own abilities. How they had shown themselves to be responsible for it in the past.
The term 'earn' almost fits, but it still suggests that in some way they would then keep what they had earned. The best way for me to clarify it in my mind is that they were entrusted based upon how they had previously prepared for it. They were not keeping this money, it was not their own, but they needed to show themselves responsible for it in any case.

Still, I side with the servant who had one bag. As a servant, a worker, subject to another's authority, this concept of being handed money while the master went away seems bizarre. Why would the master entrust is wealth to servants?
I think that part of this example portrays the upside-down Kingdom of God that does not focus on power or might, but uses ordinary people, even lower than ordinary people. That servants would be the ones with the treasures, instead of the politicians or the rich friends of the Master.
However, when I put myself in the shoes of the servant with one bag, I think of the huge responsibility- even the craziness of a responsibility to take care of the money of the Master while he went away. In this parable, the Master does not outline any rules for the servants, guidelines or even suggestions. He just doles it out and goes away.
So why then does this servant get in trouble? It seems he protects what he was given- he even hides it. He doesn't lose the wealth, he doesn't spend it frivolously, he simply digs a hole and buries it in the ground. Not the best idea, but it seems to make sense. He was a servant, after all- this was his Master's money. He needed to keep it safe!

The other servants- they get creative. The one with five bags invests it. My father would be proud. He takes a risk and comes out on top! He gains back twice what he was entrusted with. The one with two bags puts it to work. That's what my husband would do- take action, use the money but gain back even more than what was spent. The third servant buries it in the ground.
So, if they were not given instructions on what to do with the money, what was wrong with defaulting to protecting it?
I think it boils down to the third servant not knowing the Master, not understanding His will. He knew his character- he calls him a harsh man. He knew about the Master, but he didn't understand the Master's will, and so, he did nothing.

Doing nothing at all was worse than taking a risk and losing. Doing nothing at all was lazy.
The Master wasn't interested in gaining more money- he gave money to servants! Who expects mere servants to be business-savvy and make more money?
But to do nothing at all was to waste the money.
The Master told the servant he would have been better to deposit in a bank- my understanding of this being, if you aren't going to do anything at all, it is better to pass the responsibility off onto someone else.
If it was the servant's own money, would he have at least put it in a bank? Would he have invested it?

The servant's excuse is fear. He was afraid of losing it. So instead, he wasted it.

It's clear that these servants were accountable for what they had been entrusted with. In the end the servant who made a good investment and earned more was not 'given' more money as his very own- he was given more responsibility because he had prepared for it and was ready to handle more in a productive way.
It is not about fairness of doling out in equal parts, it was about stewardship.

And we, too, are accountable for what we have been entrusted with.
So, if my time is not my own, how am I using it?
Instead of looking on this past year as the lack of opportunity to work, I can consider that I have been entrusted with immense amounts of free time. Have I used it well?
It changes everything when I consider that this is not about me, but about God and His Kingdom.
Am I being a good steward of my time?
I have been given a large amount of time, when it comes time to account for it, will I have put it to work? Will I have at least taken a risk?
Or, will I have wasted it? Wasting it is worse than taking a risk and losing it.