Time out

Sharper Focus

by Major Kelly Pontsler –

“Okay, young man…it’s time out for you!” Now there’s a phrase familiar to children under the age of five. Yikes. “Time out” usually means one thing at that age: sitting quietly on your own until given permission to move again. You might be sent to your room or made to sit on a chair in the corner, but it always means you’re in trouble.

It’s been a long time since I was last sent to my room but I’ll confess that adulthood probably could use a few more “time outs.” When frenzied toddler activity over-boards into shrieking chaos, “time out” is a time of exclusion and quietness and settling down and getting a new perspective (for both parent and child). Those kids don’t know how good they have it!

I’ve been asked several times recently how things are going in my new appointment. I’ve responded honestly that I feel like someone has flipped a switch from OFF to ON FULL BLAST, and that I’m still trying to get some footing in many of my responsibilities. It may not be shrieking chaos (at least not most of the time), but by the end of last week, I was ready for a bit of “time out.” And the Lord provided that!

My long-time friend Wendy came for a visit. On a beautiful Thursday evening we drove down the coast. The hills heading south out of Pacifica on Highway 1 were gorgeous, covered in bright, fresh green (a result of lots of rain in the last few weeks). The sky was clear; the ocean was still. We got out and walked a few minutes and enjoyed the view of the setting sun. We drifted back up the road and found a spot for a good meal. The restaurant had a fire pit outside, so we ended there with a cup of coffee in hand, all the while deep in conversation. And it was in those few minutes outside, feeling the warmth of the fire and the chill of the night air, that “time out” kicked in.

After a crazy week, the presence of a good friend, good coffee and vibrant discussion did wonders. It helped me get some perspective, to step back and take a new look at things. I needed it!

I’ve been thinking about Lent the last few days. This 40-day period in the Christian church calendar is a season of fasting and prayer before Easter, as a reminder of the period of time Jesus spent in prayer and fasting in the desert. For as long as I can remember, conversations about Lent have always been about giving up something, such as vowing not to eat chocolate for six weeks. But I’m wondering if maybe the purpose of Lent is not so much about “giving up” but rather about taking “time out?”

After 40 days in the desert, physically thirsty and hungry, spiritually under Satan’s attack, Jesus must have gotten some new perspective! It was time away from the daily routine, a change of venue, a different pace, and (I have the feeling) a time of soul-searching and intense conversation in prayer with his Heavenly Father. What happened before he went to the desert and what came after were definitely significant. But so was the “time out”.

As she left, Wendy gave me a CD, which I listened to on my way in to work today, and these words (written and sung by Wendy) truly resonated with me:

“When emotions try to rule me and my life’s so up and down,
hurt and anger, bitterness, my selfish will surround.
When the burdens seem so heavy that I don’t know what to do,
Jesus, I just have to trust in you, and you say to me…
Come away my beloved,
Rest your weary head and trust in me;
Come away my beloved,
My never failing love will set you free.”

I’m pretty certain that Wendy’s visit was not merely a coincidence—it was a “God incident.” Perfect timing for a much-needed time out! Thanks, Lord!

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