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The March of Time

This week marks one complete month of living in my new home of Alvechurch and working as the Minister in Training here. Everyone from both the Church and the village have been so welcoming to me. Even the buildings and plants seem somehow inviting, and the Church bells at the Anglican Church close to my house were ringing as I arrived, as though to welcome me. As expected of course, there is plenty of new things to get used to; a new house and a new job in a new place. One thing that I hadn’t expected I would have to get used to was those church bells that I just mentioned, which aside from being rung at practices and special occasions, also chime every fifteen minutes. Every fifteen minutes. I have now become accustomed enough to sleep through them, and they only occasionally invade my dreams to become a haunting soundtrack or unusual sound effect.

The most striking thing about the chimes is the sobering and constant reminder of the passage of time which they provide. Every quarter of an hour, this chime invades my consciousness and says; “there goes another fifteen minutes, what have you done with it?” Invariably the answer seems to be very little, after all fifteen minutes isn’t very long. However the constant reminder stirs up anxiousness for greater progress, which in turn disturbs my peace and my focus, and rather than help propel me forward serves only to slow me down as I try to force my rhythm to another’s tempo. Then one day something happened. It stopped chiming. Very quickly I forgot about both the chimes and the passage of time. I became more relaxed and more productive as I fell back into my own natural rhythms. After a while a realised that the chimes had stopped and the strangest thing of all happened; I realised that I missed them!

I didn’t miss the nagging drive to be more productive, but simply their presence, their very existence. I discovered that I had become accustomed to their company and their cheerful song brightened my day. At first this didn’t seem to make sense to me. Why would I miss something that seemed to cause me anxiety? But as I thought about it, I realised that it wasn’t the bells that had been the problem, but me. The bells were, and in fact always had been, a blessing. They were a blessing that I had missed, because I was listening to them wrongly. They were just background music. The anxiety to be more productive was my voice not theirs. I had allowed my hidden subconscious thoughts, which I thought I had under control, to speak for them and somehow be amplified by them.

We live in a world filled with voices telling us many things, but it is always our choice which of those voices we listen to, and which we allow to control how we feel and behave. I don’t think that it’s possible for bells to have a hidden agenda, but even if they did, I always have the choice to be swayed by their motives, or to temper their teaching with my own understanding and feelings. And then there is a third, far more wonderful choice. Not to see and hear the world around me through my own interpretation, nor according to others wisdom, but in all things to see where the hand of God is at work and to hear His teaching through it. In this case, He simply said; you need not worry, for it is I who holds all time in my hands. I no longer feel anxiety when I hear the bells, but peace. I am no longer reminded about what I haven’t achieved. Instead, the constant chiming of the bells remind me of the constant faithful presence of my loving Father who is always beside me guarding and guiding me. They also occasionally remind me that I’m about to be late for a meeting.

Originally written for the October 2021 ABC Newsletter

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