Keith Wishum: Time fidgets

Published 10:54 am Monday, August 5, 2019

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“Tempus Fidget” Richard Doebler calls it. Time doesn’t fly; it fidgets.

The story is told of a farmer who decided one morning to plow his south 40. His tractor needed oil, so he started for the barn to get some. On the way, he noticed that the pigs hadn’t been fed. So, he headed to the corn crib to get some feed for the pigs. Near the crib, he spotted a pile of sacks, reminding him that the potatoes were sprouting. He turned toward the potato pit, but when he passed the woodpile, he remembered that the kitchen stove was burning low. Stopping to gather an armload of firewood, he saw that one of his chickens was ailing, so he dropped the wood to doctor the chicken.

And so it went all day long … detour after detour, until the sun finally slipped over the horizon. As night fell, he still hadn’t oiled the tractor or started plowing the south 40.

That’s Tempus Fidget. It’s not new.

Sometimes, when we fret that our lives are just too busy, we blame it on modern life. But, as illustrated by the story of the unfocused farmer, the problem may not be so much the times in which we live as it is what we do with the time. There have always been distractions from the important toward the urgent.

Remember Jesus’ friend Martha. When the Lord visited her, Martha was anxious to be a good hostess to such an important guest. She wanted the meal to be perfect, and who could blame her?

Yet, Martha got caught in Tempus Fidget and missed what was most important. She was so “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” — so “worried and upset about many things” — that she missed “what is better” (Luke 10:40-41).

Tempus Fidget is still around. Our attention jumps from one new toy to another, from one hobby to the next, even from one relationship to a new one. We flit from job to family to fun so fast that we may do justice to none. And, greatest danger of all, we may get busy about “many things” forgetting that “only one thing is needed.”

The one thing that Martha overlooked in her busy schedule was the incredible opportunity to sit at the feet of her Creator and listen.

In that, Martha is not alone. Distractions abound. Beware of Tempus Fidget.


Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.