At our family gathering, little Aaron, 2 1/2, was acting up. His parents told him to settle down or he would get a “time out.” Aaron didn’t settle down. So his father unceremoniously picked him up and carried him down the hall to his bedroom. He deposited him inside, said a few words to him, and shut the door. Aaron whimpered a little on the other side of the door, but, after a few minutes, he was quiet. He was settling down. Soon his father went back to the bedroom and, after saying a few words to Aaron again, he released him from his “time out.” Aaron scampered back to our family gathering all smiles.
Time out. What a great concept. It can be pretty effective with kids. But I was wondering, are “time outs” good for us adults too? If, for example, we are crabby, ornery, tense, or vindictive, should we give ourselves a “time out” to “settle down”? Perhaps if we withdrew from other people for a little while, went for a solo walk, got lost in a good novel, studied the clouds, or even reflected on the causes of our bad mood, then we would return to our regular life with a better attitude and demeanor.
Is prayer a time out? I think it is. During prayer we retreat from our everyday responsibilities (cooking, running to the store, working on a project) and we spend time with God. Consciously. Intentionally. Regularly. This prayer time is not an escape from our responsibilities. On the contrary, it is time to focus on our very real and major responsibilities: our relationship with God, our love for others, and the direction our life is taking by the choices we are making. (Perhaps reading this blog every week is one of your “time outs.”)
Friendship can be a “time out” too. Recently I went out to dinner with two good SND friends of mine. In addition to enjoying a great meal together, we caught up with each other’s life, we discussed some current issues, and we reminisced over some old photos we had brought along. And we laughed. A lot! As I drove home afterwards, I audibly thanked God for those two good friends who have walked so much of my life journey with me. Just being with them refreshed me, encouraged me, and put me in a better frame of mind—just like a “time out” should!
Jesus gave himself a “time out” every now and then. Although he was busy with his preaching, teaching, and healing, he took time out to pray. He also encouraged his disciples to take a “time out” with his words, “Come aside and rest a while.” Besides his apostles, Jesus had many good friends: Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, to name a few. To sustain such relationships, Jesus must have taken time out from his public ministry to be with his good friends. I can see him arriving unexpectedly at Lazarus’ house, plopping himself down on some cushions, and asking, “Martha, Mary–got anything to eat?”
The writer Hugh Prather wrote these wise words about solitude. I think we could substitute “time out” for solitude here: “For me, solitude means putting parts of me back together—-the unifying of myself whereby I see once again that the little things are little and the big things are big….I believe that solitude is a profound and needed act of self-love and self-appreciation.”
What has been your experience with “time outs” for others and for yourself?
What kind of activities do you engage in that are really “time outs” for you?