Living in the thickness of time

Time doesn’t always seem to be that spiritual a subject.  But I have always disagreed with those who cannot see its spirituality.  It is, after all, in units of time that we must live out this God-life that is within.  

And as I read Lauren Winner’s ‘Mudhouse Sabbath’, that idea is deepened within me.  I think Judaism has a kind of spirituality of time that bypasses the rest of us sometimes.  There is, as Qoheleth said, a time for everything.  And that is what Judaism recognises. 

In Winner’s chapter on avelut (mourning for the uninitiated like me!), I read of a pattern to mourning which lasts a year – a ‘calendar of bereavement’, as Winner calls it.  It recognises that mourning takes time.  We do not come to terms with the loss of one whom we love at the same speed as our ‘fast food fast life’ age seems to advertise.  If we try to move on, to get over it, to push forward, we lose something.  Grief cannot be skipped over; it cannot be crammed into a short slot in a busy life; it refuses to be ignored.  Time is what grief requires.  And yet time is what we often do not allow it.

Image: Graeme Weatherston /

Yet Judaism’s practices of avelut force the mourner and their community to take time to grieve.  Time to feel the initial raw pain.  Time to walk through the numbness of the following weeks.  Time in the months that come where the mourner thinks that they are ‘over’ what they lost, but then finds that they are not.  Time, even until the end of that year of grief, and then again until each anniversary of that grief.

And as I read, I reflect that there is no quick-fix, no alternative for time.  You cannot just pay for the premier option and be fast-tracked through life.  Life in its very essence demands that we take time.  And those who refuse to walk slowly, who refuse to recognise that spirituality is expressed only in units of time, who believe that they alone can run through life and yet live deeply…it is they who will live on the surface, who will never enter into the thickness of life, who will never find God in the gaps between the warp and weft of the fabric that is life.

And I believe that the people who understand the spirituality of time are few.  Even those who do face a constant battle to protect their time; their attempts to live slowly are thwarted at every turn.  The fight is on.  And it is against the enemy of our souls.  Busy-ness, living fast, being efficient…they seem such innocent goals.  Those of us who have walked long with God have learned how to spiritualise them until even we cannot see the truth.  But let’s not be deceived.  The adversary wants that we should never enter in to the deep fulness of created life with God but instead live a superficial created life without God; he wants nothing more than that we should live on the surface of time rather than entering into its thickness.

You might not want to adopt Jewish practices wholesale.  Interestingly, Winner seems to have given up many of her Jewish practices upon conversion.  In any event, the practice itself is not the point.  It is only the signpost to the greater reality.  But, for goodness’ sake, let’s learn from Judaism about the spirituality of time and then let’s do something to concretise that in our own lives.

Na’aseh v’nishma!

…which I’d like to mean Let us do that we may believe’ … but I don’t know how to form the moods of these verbs in Hebrew – or indeed even if those moods exist.  Any Hebraists out there want to help me?!


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