by Bronwyn Lea
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
“How you spell LOVE depends on who you’re asking,” said my mentor. “You might spell it L-O-V-E, but if you’re lonely you might spell it T-A-L-K,” she explained, “and if you’re a kid, chances are you spell it T-I-M-E.” I was a Mom of two toddlers when I heard these words, and I could immediately see the truth in them. More than any words or gifts, my children wanted my TIME, and they wanted a lot of it: “Mommy, look at this! Watch me do that! Play with me! Read with me! Just five more minutes!”
I’d often heard that quality time was more important than quantity time, but what my mentor was clearly telling me was that it wasn’t an either/or choice between the two. Rather, when it comes to certain relationships, the ability to have quality time depends on whether we’ve spent quantity time together. We can’t go weeks without having checked in with our teen, and then think we can go “deep” in a one hour monthly chat.
‘Quantity time’ also doesn’t necessarily mean a marathon session of togetherness. Just like ten minutes of walking daily is better than a weekly hour-long exercise session, so too, ten minutes of connection a day—done regularly—racks up “quantity” time in a relationship; and these regular rhythms of connection pave the way for intimacy—whether it’s with friends, family, or with God.
I got thinking about the distinction between quality and quantity time again recently during a Bible study on rest and Sabbath. Over several weeks, we poured over Scripture’s description of God being one who works and rests (Genesis 1-2), and then calls us to work and rest, too. As we dug into the passages about Sabbath, we discovered God’s gracious instructions about weekly rhythms of Sabbath rest so we can be reminded that we’re part of his beloved creation (Exodus 20:11) and we’re his redeemed and free people (Deuteronomy 5:15).
Both the weekly rhythms of Sabbath rest and the more daily rhythms of getting away to be with the Father (as Jesus did in Luke 5:16, and encourages us to do in Matthew 6:6) are examples of quantity time with God. They’re like “date night” for couples: regular time set aside on the calendar for togetherness.
But the beauty of a regular time of “togetherness”—whether it’s daily or weekly—is that it paves the way for quality time, which reminds me of the deep and vital connection to Jesus which he describes in John 15. We are called to abide (or remain) in him just like a branch stays connected to its vine or tree. But what does it mean to “abide”? What does it mean to “remain” in him? And more importantly, how do we practice this kind of loving obedience to Jesus and stay connected?
Perhaps, I thought, love for God is also sometimes worked out in T-I-M-E. And perhaps, by inviting us to spend time with him regularly (whether in solitude, or with other believers), God is paving the way for intimacy. By encouraging us to take up rhythms of regular time in silence and worship or just having add up to being a good quantity of time. Just like kids need regular time with their parents in order to feel closer and just as trees need regular watering to grow: God’s wisdom in modeling regular times of rest and worship sets us up for closeness to him and growth in him. The abiding life Jesus talks about is not an elusive “feeling” I need to conjure up; and quality time with my heavenly Father is not something I need to make happen like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
I am always amazed and inspired by stories of Christians of old who retreated to the wilderness for months or years to be with God, even if I am intimidated by their example. I know I’m not likely to spend a year in the desert with God. But the good news is that we don’t need to do that to have a close, intimate relationship with God. The abiding life—filled with quality time of intimate connection with God—is more doable than I realized. In fact, the basic ingredients for it are built right into the fabric of each day and each week: and those regular, small bits of T-I-M-E with God, are building L-O-V-E in the long run.
Bronwyn Lea is the author of Beyond Awkward Side Hugs: Living as Christian Brothers and Sisters in a Sex-Crazed World. She is a stay-at-home (for the pandemic) pastor, editor for Propel Sophia, and speaker. Sign up for her monthly-ish newsletter here, and connect online on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.