Debriefing Our Lives


The truth is that people need help debriefing their lives. They need to examine their experiences to learn from them… to help people make sense of what is going on in them and around them. In earlier times, people accomplished this while lingering over meals with their family and engaging in late-night discussions on front porches or on the phone with friends in extended conversations…. Now we have to stimulate those discussions for people because they aren’t making TIME (emphasis mine) for them anymore, due to the frenzied pace and isolation of contemporary life. 

From his book, Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal writes these words to move our thinking about the goals of  Sunday morning worship service. I could talk about that, but I want to talk about Time, and how little we have. 

I was watching a documentary on Mike Douglas, the tv host from the 60’s and 70’s. The show was aired in Philadelphia. The documentary was embeddded with clips from the original broadcasted show … and I realized, having grown up in South Jersey, that watching Mike Douglas and his daily hosting of hollywood stars and musicians was in my childhood memories.  Sammie Davis Jr, Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett, Captain & Tennile … I am warmed by their youthfulness. 

My mind drifted back to those days of being eight or nine or ten. It seemed like a simpler, slower time, I rationalized. When afternoons crawled into dusk, and the smells from the dinner hour lingered through the whole evening. Mom would sit at the table, playing solitaire, and the sweat on her glass of ice water was the hourglass reminding us that time was barely moving. Biding time – waiting ON time, because it moved too slow for our impatience, was relieved by an afternoon of rhythmic rocking on the neigbor’s porch  swing. 

Where did that life go?   

Life … my life, is  now impoverished of Time. The sacredness of an hour has been lost to the minute. Dinner eaten in 12 minutes. Cooked in less than 10. Cleaned up in 2. Less than Thirty minute meals. A glass of water consumed in cupfuls and gulps, no time to sweat. And playing solitaire? Isn’t that the game played by people who have no important place to be in the next 20 minutes?  

Debriefing–making sense of life and what is going on around me–is pushed to the far edges of my days; maybe 10 mintues in the morning, or the 27 seconds it takes me to fall aspleep after I crawl into bed. But I need to make sense of my life. 

McNeal touches my poverty. There is a moment in my week that I am permitted to stop, and Debrief. And This, honestly, is why I go to church. For one hour I debrief my Life, and hold it  up against the Words of the Keeper of Time. And am reminded that I am the Poor, desperately Poor, and in need of turning from this Driven Pace.


4 thoughts on “Debriefing Our Lives”

  1. There is so much important stuff to chew on in McNeal’s new book. Thanks for picking one of the ideas that, for me, has constantly hit home. Redeeming the time. I (we?) can get so busy “doing” for God that we miss BEING with the Father who created and knows us fully, the Son who loves us extravagantly, and the Spirit who whispers guidance, peace, assurance, and hope to us so faithfully. Perhaps intentional times of debriefing become the better things that need to replace a few of those good things we “do” to feel a sense of accomplishment…

  2. Life can leave us breathless.

    Even the military spends time debreiefing after each mission – the first step in letting go whether the mission was successful or a dismal failure. (Which kinda reminds me of Sister Marcie…..)

    This is why I love rainy days. I think they remind me to slow down. For some reason, I can stop and take a breath when it is raining out. It is easier to let go of the madness that consumes me and pushes me onward.

    I am so gald you blogged on this topic. We are such a poor society. And not even sure of what we lost. Just hamsters on a wheel sometimes. Even if that wheel is the church and God’s work.

    Some disjointed comments!

  3. So I googled “song titles with time” and discovered pages of them. The most precious thing we have to offer is our time. We talk about it. We sing about it. We wish for more of it to keep and to give away. The most costly thing we can throw away is our minutes. (There is some great phone commercials on that topic! Keeping the unused minutes at the end of a month!) We are connected to time. We live life in reference to it. We can give it away and we can waste it. We can enjoy it and we can hate the passing of it. We can miss it when it is gone and we can pretend that we have all the minutes and hours in the future that we want. We can think that there is time tomorrow or next week. But we are constantly losing it. We are always spending it. And there is no way to add to the balance sheet.

    And really all we actually have is this moment. And God called us to redeem it! Interesting call. God is redeeming all of creation. And he called us to redeem the time. It is truly the only way that we can “get it back.” Redeem the moment you have with an act borne of God’s direction and it will be an eternal moment.

    All of the rest of creation bears God’s mark. But time he made for us. God exists outside of it. But he gave to us the precious gift of time and the consciousness of time passing. When you have few dollars, they are each precious and important. And we think about how we are going to spend them. So should it be with time. We have a limited number of moments. They are precious and important. Redeeming the time. Sometimes that is just loving on your family. Sometimes it is sleep. Sometimes it is learning. Sometimes it is smelling the flowers in a meadow you have never been in. But it is always doing something in obedience to the Father who loves us. Now, about applying that to rebellion……

  4. Jayne – I am glad you are writing … and you are dealing here with one of the most debilitating elements of modern life – if we were to stop would we fall apart? Is our speed holding us together somehow? Just wondering with you ….

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