Mark's Minute 

March 8, 2018

I’ll start today with a public service announcement: this weekend is the start of Daylight Saving Time, so don’t forget to set your clocks one hour ahead before you go to bed on Saturday so that you’re not an hour late for the service on Sunday.

I realize that most of you (myself included) use your cell phones as your primary time-telling devices and they update automatically, so you might not even need the warning. But you also might wake up on Sunday with your bedside clock reading one time and your cell phone reading another, which would throw you into existential chaos. And because I love you, I want to do whatever I can to help you avoid that outcome.

Also, it’s Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings Time.

You’re welcome.

I know this isn’t exactly a hot take, but I think shifting clocks is a silly thing to do.

(Today on the blog: What’s up with Daylight Saving Time, am I right? Don’t worry, folks: I’m here all week.)

Seriously, though: why do we go through the twice-yearly routine of moving our clocks forward only to shift them back again? It’s like we get this amazing gift of an extra hour of sleep in the fall, but we can’t really enjoy it because we know that hour will be mercilessly taken away in the spring. Why, time? Why?

To clarify, I know the answer to the question. I’m just not compelled by it. I understand that giving people an extra hour of daylight in the evening during the summer is a nice thing to do. But why does it make sense to take that hour back in the winter?

I hear you, DST advocates (yes, there are DST advocates) when you say that shifting the clock an hour forward in the summer helps save energy and is nicer for the planet. As a child of the 80s environmental movement, I can hug a tree along with the best of them, and I’m all for reducing energy consumption and our reliance on fossil fuels.

And, to be clear, I wasn’t always annoyed by DST. Sure, losing an hour of sleep once a year was a hassle, but the consequences were small. Then I had kids. That small act of shifting clocks an hour has these enormous ripple effects as we reorient routines.

I really wanted to work through this issue, so I did some minor research, and here are some interesting things that I discovered.

First, the idea of DST was first proposed in the 1890s, but wasn’t widely adopted until WWI, first by Germany, then by other countries. Most places dropped it after the war, only to take it up again during WWII, after which most places dropped it again until the energy crisis of the 70s.

Second, DST observance is far from universal. Most of Asia, Africa, and large parts of South America and Australia don’t observe it.

And even where you think it’s universally observed, it’s not. For example, the enlightened residents of the Peace River region of BC don’t shift their clocks, which means they’re on Pacific time for half the year and Mountain time for the other half. The renegade province of Saskatchewan (except for Lloydminster—come on, Lloyd!) doesn’t use DST. Neither does Arizona.

The point, my patient friends, is this: shifting clocks by an hour twice a year really doesn’t make much sense when you stack up the evidence for and against it.

So, why do we do it?

I think a large chunk of the answer for us is, “Because the US does it,” and being an hour out-of-sync with our neighbours to the south for half the year would be disruptive (although that doesn’t seem to bother Saskatchewan, my new favourite Canadian province, as long as you take out Llodyminster).

Also, it’s just not as big a deal for most people as it is for me. There’s that.

Anyway, DST ranting aside, here’s where I’m going with all this. Our lives are full of things that are like DST—things that don’t bring us any benefit, but we do anyway. Sometimes it’s because we’ve always done them. Sometimes it’s because other people do them and we want to fit in. Sometimes it’s because they don’t seem like a big enough deal to change, because change is hard and inertia is easy.

Maybe our twice-yearly shifting of the clocks can turn into something good. Why not take some time as you’re resetting all the clocks in your house (and there are always more than you think there should be) to think about the patterns of your life, and specifically about the patterns of your discipleship?

We all have patterns to our discipleship, whether they’re patterns of Bible reading, of prayer, of attending church, or whatever else. We also have patterns that are detrimental to our discipleship—things like habitual sins.

What are yours? Are your discipleship patterns effective? Do they lead you toward maturity in Christ? Do they allow you to use your gifts in the service of his kingdom? Do they cause you to grow?

Or do your patterns need to be refocused? Are there things you need to give up? Are there things that need to be tweaked? Is the Holy Spirit calling you to something more that you can’t say yes to because you’re too busy doing the spiritual equivalent of changing your clocks?

I may not be able to do anything about DST (although if you’re an anti-DST lobbyist, send me an email), but I can do something about me. So if Daylight Saving Time prompts us to consider what does and doesn’t make sense in our lives, perhaps losing an hour of sleep is worth something after all.

For the record: before you send me an email about picking on Lloydminster, the reason they follow DST is because the city is bisected by the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, so it would be really weird if half the city was one time and the other half was another. And if you’ve never been to Lloydminster to witness a city split by a provincial border, you should go. It’s strangely fascinating to see.

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