Earlier this week I was at dinner with a couple of friends. One of the people, one who has always struck me as very busy, commented that not having time for a person didn't mean she didn't care. I thought about this for the next few days and had a couple more experiences with the concept, but have come to the conclusion that in relationships (i.e. when we have to deal with people) time is a valuable commodity. It is like the flour in a cake, the egg in a quiche, the meat in a Sunday roast. It is the foundation of a building. Without time there is no relationship.
I realize that different people speak different love languages. That for some the giving of service or gifts or words or touch is more important than the gift of time. It is interesting though how time is an element of each of those other gifts. What gift is more meaningful? One that someone has put time and effort into? Or whatever was the first item he saw when he walked through the doors at wal-mart? What service is more meaningful? Sure I'll help you out with bathing the kids and putting them to bed tonight, or I spent all day at work making money to pay the bills, and now you want more of my time? What gift of touch is more meaningful? A pat on the head or a long embrace? Which words say more "I care about you"? I'm so glad you are here! We couldn't have done it without you! You look so good today by the way. Or does 'sup send the better message?
As one to whom the love language of time speaks very loudly, nothing says "I don't love you" like "I don't want to spend time with you". I've done enough people watching to know that universally people spend their time on the things that they feel are the highest priority. That priority list doesn't always stay the same of course, it is fluctuating as things move around in the time management matrix. And even though gifts and words don't speak as loudly to me, I still understand that an untouched or cast aside gift, says I didn't want it. Not giving a birthday gift to someone who speaks the language of gifts, doesn't say I love you. Withholding physical affection from someone who speaks touch, doesn't say I love you. Neglecting to say thank you, and not giving or withholding compliments doesn't say I love you to the person who speaks words. Ignoring bids of attention for help, refusing to take out the trash, or lend a hand, or even being unaware of when you could have helped out, doesn't say I love you to the person who speaks service.
Lately I've been thinking about why time does speak loudly to me. I realized that in great measure love spelled T-I-M-E to me. But why?
I went and read Elder Uchtdorf's 2010 October General Conference talk "of things that matter most", because that's where I heard that quote about how love is spelled. He talks about how the basics are related to maintaining four types of relationships.
"As we turn to our Heavenly Father and seek His wisdom regarding the things that matter most, we learn over and over again the importance of four key relationships: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves. As we evaluate our own lives with a willing mind, we will see where we have drifted from the more excellent way. The eyes of our understanding will be opened, and we will recognize what needs to be done to purify our heart and refocus our life."
Relationship #1: God
"We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Christ].” To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Wait we need meaningful time alone when strengthening our relationship with God? Why did he say just that? He didn't use the word gifts, touch, or service, he only implied them in the gifts of obedience and temple work. (Both of which require time, actually). But the part about being still, doesn't that mean waiting on The Lord, being patient? Is patience a gift of time?
Relationship #2: Family
"Our second key relationship is with our families. Since “no other success can compensate for failure” here, we must place high priority on our families. We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. We establish a divine bond with each other as we approach God together through family prayer, gospel study, and Sunday worship."
Families have to do stuff together! He said simple things. "Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home". And talking with each other (instead of about each other- telling friends about what a great soccer player your son is isn't the same as telling your son that he is a good soccer player) is important.
As a single adult, I don't yet have my own family. Many times singles refer to roommates, friends, and wards at their surrogate families. If these people really are surrogate families, wouldn't the things Elder Uchtdorf said apply? Would there be more harmony in homes where groups of single people live if they took time for each other? Would there be more harmony in Wards if they took time to do things together? I'm having a difficult time pulling out the languages of gifts, words, service, and touch in what he said about families. It seems like with children and spouses there really is no way around it. You can't give your kids cool presents at Christmas but not spend time with them, thinking that they will feel loved. The absent father who sends money, provides for all the temporal needs, isn't the same as the father who also gives his presence as his present.
Relationship #3: Fellowman
"The third key relationship we have is with our fellowman. We build this relationship one person at a time—by being sensitive to the needs of others, serving them, and giving of our time and talents. I was deeply impressed by one sister who was burdened with the challenges of age and illness but decided that although she couldn’t do much, she could listen. And so each week she watched for people who looked troubled or discouraged, and she spent time with them, listening. What a blessing she was in the lives of so many people."
Service really stands out to me here, putting the needs of someone else above your own. There are so many ways to love people, depending on what they need. But I think the key is being aware of what they need, which to me just goes back to time. How would you know that Sister Jones needs a ride to the airport if all you ever did was wave at church? She wouldn't ask you! How would you know that Sister Davis needs a babysitter for 30 minutes so she can go pick up her daughter who missed the bus home, if you weren't close? Nobody wants to burden anyone else so they don't ask favors from people they aren't close to. But I think Heavenly Father wants us to learn to ask favors from each other... Because doesn't he want us to take care of each other? Doesn't he want us to give our time to each other? Building relationships one person at a time seems like it would require time. When we divide our time between too many, does that effect the quality? Does it effect the individuality? Do we begin to see the needs of others more in a generalized "I'm-not-wearing-my-glasses" kind of way, instead of seeing their needs in a specific and individual "now-that-I-got-glasses-I-can-see-the-individual-leaves-on-the-trees kind of way?
Relationship #4: Yourself
"The fourth key relationship is with ourselves. It may seem odd to think of having a relationship with ourselves, but we do. Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally. Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you—as His precious daughter or son with divine potential."
Reduce the rush. Did he mean the noise too? And take the TIME to get to know yourself better. I have to spend time with myself!? To me this part brings things full circle. "Be still, and know that I am God". Will giving gifts to myself help me to love me? Will serving myself help me to love me? Will having a bunch of friends help me to love me?
"Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most."
Did Elder Uchtdorf say all that because his love language is quality time? Or is time really the foundational principle behind love, behind charity?
Is what matters most to me, what I love, really where I spend the most of my time? And if it is, I think maybe I need to evaluate my time every so often like I evaluate my budget every so often. Where do I spend my time? Who do I spend it with? What do I spend it on? There are no rollover minutes. At the end of the day, that's all there is. And at the end of the day, have I paid attention to the divine things that matter most?
"My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.”And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,”Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of The Lord" (Jeffery R. Holland, Oct 2012).
The crowning characteristic of love is loyalty. Can you imagine the conversation before The Lord? "I did care! Just because I didn't have time to go to church doesn't mean I didn't care! Just because I didn't get to the temple doesn't mean I didn't think it wasn't important! I didn't do my visiting teaching, but of course those sisters were important, they are thy children! Sure I didn't help my old lady neighbor but that doesn't mean I didn't care! I was busy, Lord! You understand how it is with work, and traveling and planning vacations, and my calling, and my kids, and all the things I had to do... But even though I didn't give my time to you, you were still important to me. I never hurt anybody, I was good person. "Yea lord, thou knowest that I love thee? Oh to stand with confidence and say that.
"This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep”—share my gospel with young and old, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging, and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do. We feed His lambs in our homes by how we live the gospel: keeping the commandments, praying, studying the scriptures, and emulating His love. We feed His sheep in the Church as we serve in priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations. And we feed His sheep throughout the world by being good Christian neighbors, practicing the pure religion of visiting and serving the widows, the fatherless, the poor, and all who are in need" (Robert D. Hales, Oct 2012).
"I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging. In speaking of charity, I do not at this moment have in mind the relief of the suffering through the giving of our substance. That, of course, is necessary and proper. Tonight, however, I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.
I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.
There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere...
Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others...
Charity, that pure love of Christ, is manifest when a group of young women from a singles ward travels hundreds of miles to attend the funeral services for the mother of one of their Relief Society sisters. Charity is shown when devoted visiting teachers return month after month, year after year to the same uninterested, somewhat critical sister. It is evident when an elderly widow is remembered and taken to ward functions and to Relief Society activities. It is felt when the sister sitting alone in Relief Society receives the invitation, “Come—sit by us.”
In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.
Charity has been defined as “the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love,” the “pure love of Christ … ; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with [her].”
“Charity never faileth.” May this long-enduring Relief Society motto, this timeless truth, guide you in everything you do. May it permeate your very souls and find expression in all your thoughts and actions" (Thomas S. Monson, Oct 2010).
Charity, especially the kind from the above quote, seems to me to have a foundation in time. Patience with someone who has let us down.. Isn't that giving them time? Visiting teaching... Doesn't that take time? Kindness... Isn't that time? Forgiveness... I know that one requires time! (Lol)
Why does time speak loudly to me? Is it because it really is everywhere? Or do I see it everywhere because it speaks to me? Is it really foundational to love and charity? Or do I just see it as such because it is what I want to see?
The person I talked with at dinner earlier this week mentions almost every time that I see her, that we need to get together. We still haven't yet. She hasn't had time. Lol. I give her the benefit of the doubt... But after an extended period of that, the benefit part seems to wane and all that is left is the doubt. Did you really want to do something?
But if love is time...
Then I also need to give my time.