Sometimes, when a child is out of control, we put them in time out. The goal is to give them time and space to calm down and regain control.
Sometimes I need a Time Out, like at dinner the other night. It was a little chaotic and I needed to leave the table and be alone for a bit.
Taking a Time Out is good. It’s important to recognize when we need it and have the wisdom to take it. There are times when I need to stop what I’m doing or thinking and sit still in God’s presence. Times when I need to refocus on things of Heaven rather than the struggles of my day. Times when I just have to let go of my distressing thoughts and remember that God is in charge.
Let’s explore that idea of a grown-up Time Out – a Spiritual Time Out. Not one where you take a time out from spiritual things, but when you take time for spiritual things. Here are some examples of ways to take a spiritual Time Out.
God gave us a weekly Time Out. He rested on the seventh day and commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath. As Christians we celebrate the Lord’s Day on Sunday because it is the day of the Resurrection. We are called to set aside that day for God. For many years, I didn’t take that weekly Time Out. Sunday was my day to catch up on all the work I didn’t get done during the week. But God in His wisdom commands us to rest on the seventh day and come together in community for worship. We need to rest and recharge our batteries for the demands of the next week. So our Sunday rest is actually both a rest for our bodies and minds and a time to worship God. The busier you are in life, the less likely you are to take a weekly Time Out, and the more you actually need it.
Sometimes we need a longer Time Out from our regular lives, and so we take vacations. We might go to the beach for a week or visit family, and sometimes we actually take a vacation from God. But vacation time is ideal for spending extra time with God without the worries of the regular routine. You can even make your vacation a retreat, when you intentionally focus on growing your relationship with God. This kind of Time Out is good to do at least once a year.
Sometimes we need a Time Out from bad habits or bad thinking. For example, if I am feeling sorry for myself, I need a Time Out to praise God for my blessings. If my thoughts are focused on criticizing others, I need a Time Out to pray for the virtue of humility and charity, and to pray for those who I am criticizing. If I am harboring resentment and unforgiveness toward someone, I need a Time Out to pray for the grace to let go and allow God to heal me.
Sometimes, just like a child, I need a Time Out to get control of my emotions. When I am angry, I can speak without thinking or send an email in ALL CAPS so they know how mad I am about whatever they did. Those are times I know I need a Time Out. I need to go to God and ask for the grace of His peace.
I need a Time Out when my workload is overwhelming me. For most of us, the feeling of being overwhelmed doesn’t suddenly manifest itself. It happens gradually, often without us even realizing it. But the stress grows, our bodies get more tense, our minds begin to race, and we become more and more frantic. As soon as I recognize that, I take a Time Out. I sit back. I breathe. I say a quick prayer. I need the Time Out so that I can think clearly about the workload and decide what to do and what to delay.
Sometimes I need a Time Out from the world and all of its evils. Listening to the news, getting bogged down in politics and social issues that divide people, hearing about the violence in the world, all of that can be so discouraging. Much of it we have no control over, so I have to wonder who is drawing me to focus on these evils. Is it God? If that’s the case, He would also guide me to take some kind of action to address the issue. If it is not God, the goal is to steal my peace – that peace that comes only from God. Perhaps the response we should take when we’re focusing on evil is a Time Out and a turn to prayer and fasting for those who are suffering. And then leave the rest to God.
Sometimes I need a Time Out from noise. Many people I know like to have the TV or radio playing as background noise. I much prefer silence. The person I know who is closest to God lives most of her day in silence. She has no TV and doesn’t use the Internet. I am certain that the time she spends in silence each day is a big factor in her strong relationship with God. Not all of us have that luxury. If you are a parent with little ones running around, it may be hard to have much time in silence. I think that’s why parents invented the quiet game.
Sometimes I need a Time Out from my own irritants. There are things that just annoy me, and when I’m tired or sick, I get annoyed more easily. That means that little things bug me, like how someone is breathing, or when someone sits in your seat at church, or when other cars won’t let you merge in traffic. I have been known to say, “You’re getting on my last nerve.” That’s when I need a Time Out.
I need a Time Out when I get into an argument. The conversation may not have started that way, but at some point I realize that I want to win this one. That’s when I know I need a Time Out.
I need a Time Out when I am worrying. What if this happens? What will I do? How will I manage it? What’s going to go wrong? I can fret about the future and about things I have no control over. I need a Time Out to ask God to help me trust Him more.
Taking a Time Out can make a big difference if we use it well. If you take a family vacation Time Out, but it’s filled with stresses, it’s not an effective Time Out. What makes a good Spiritual Time Out?
- You are able to successfully stop whatever thoughts or actions were stealing your peace.
- You turn your heart and mind to God.
That’s it! Your goal is to stop the negative and move to God.
Where can your Time Out place be? My most fruitful Time Out place is at church, sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It is the easiest place to let go of whatever has been causing stress. But sometimes that’s not an option. I can take Time Out in my prayer space at home, or while walking in the park, or while taking a drive alone. And I can have a good Time Out while washing the dishes because nobody bothers me then. Sometimes the best I can do is to play the quiet game when travelling in the car with kids. It’s not a perfect Time Out but it sure helps.
The enemy is constantly attacking. He wants us to be busy. He wants us to focus on our emotions and needs. He wants us to find fault with others so that our relationships are broken. He wants us to see how much evil he has brought into the world so we question God’s goodness. When I recognize the enemy at work, I know I need a Time Out. Taking a Spiritual Time Out is a powerful weapon because it draws our hearts and minds back to God.
Kids need a time out when they are overstimulated. So do we. We don’t have parents who send us into time out, though. We have to do it ourselves. We have to recognize when we need it and make it happen.
Questions for prayer:
How good are you at taking a spiritual Time Out? Are you able to quickly recognize the need and take action?
What are the situations most likely to lead to a need for you to take a spiritual Time Out? How can you more quickly recognize that need?