Doing Life While Doing Time

Omar Aleman Aleman and Associates

The whole thing seemed so futile. They were down three touchdowns with less than a minute to play. The quarterback got the ball and hurled it downfield as far as possible hoping that one wearing his jersey would catch it. But if he did, so what? There was not enough time to make a comeback; why not just “take a knee” and leave it at that? Yet, time and time again this scenario is played out during fall weekends. The reason given… competitors do not stop playing until the clock strikes zero.


Clock management

timeIt is interesting to note that clock management occurs mainly during the last few minutes of a game. It is at this crucial juncture that time becomes a pivotal issue. Yet, whereas one side tries to conserve and use time wisely, the other looks to “run out the clock” in order to preserve the win. It all depends on the score.

When it comes to our available time, are we looking to conserve it and use it wisely or do we just “run out the clock?” One would think this is fodder for philosophers and deep thinkers, yet it was an inmate at a state prison who made sense of it all for me. He had been at the institution for over twenty years and expected to die there. And during our conversation, he casually remarked that the toughest thing for him was “doing time while doing life.” In essence, his primary goal was to exhaust the clock for the game to end quickly and mercifully, given he was condemned for the duration. But then he asked me how it felt “to do life while doing time.” You see, unlike him, I “had a life” and he was wondering how differently time is budgeted for those who “have something to live for.” Food for thought, indeed.

Os Guinness, the famous philosopher and theologian, shared wise advice that he received on this subject from an indigenous tribe decades ago. These “savages” noticed that while Westerners had watches, they had time, considering us time keepers as they were time users. Mr. Guinness observed that they were such accomplished time users because they used it with intentionality. How intentional are we with the passage of time?


Take a knee or punt?

Take today, for instance… that’s all we have. Tomorrow has not been promised and yesterday is a memory, so here we are. What should our decision be; take a knee, punt or go for it? How about all three? Maybe the start of our day would be much improved if we took a knee, maybe two, for God. Getting on our knees and having a connection with the Creator may enlighten us as to the urgency of living a full life. Secondly, in a world where individualism is so revered, many go about believing they can become successful through their own talents. They foolishly try to convert on fourth and 45 after being pushed back by the world. Maybe the correct play is to punt the ball to God to let him run interference as our Holy Protector.

You can be safe, or you can be brave, but you can’t be both. Thirdly, “going for it” implies a certain degree of bravery. It may be so, but it seems that being safe is often not the wisest decision, given the number of “safe people” who live a life of quiet desperation, basically running the clock out. A life of holy inspiration awaits many of those who are brave enough to use their minutes while counting their blessings, both of which are precious. For a society enthralled on financial gain, it may be wise to take notice that one can make more money… but not more time. Let’s not wait until the waning moments of our life to conduct clock management.


How are you doing time?

One more thing. It strikes me that all of us are sentenced to life in this “big prison” called earth. Given temporary life, we are prompted to live intentionally since we are not told the length of the sentence. Remember our trusty inmate and his apparent joyless remark? That was only part of the story. Turns out that despite the apparent gloom, there was a great rainbow in his life. You see, he worked daily in prison in the construction of custom wheelchairs for special needs children around the world, which gave him true purpose in life. He was giving back life, not just doing life, after being condemned for taking one. We should strive not just to do life, but to give life, and that entails being faithful stewards of the time He gives us.


Hope Haven International Ministries delivers the gospel of Christ through the life-changing gift of a wheelchair. Learn more at

Read more articles by Omar Aleman at

Share this article