At the beginning of this year, I was impacted by the enormous idea (not new) that time plays a larger role in our lives than most of us give credence to. It is as if the inevitable, inexorable drivenness of the state we find ourselves in is too large for comprehension, so time goes unattended, and that is folly indeed.
Truly, in our culture, we are almost obsessed with time: we never seem to have enough of it, can’t explain it, mark it, save it, waste it, bide it, race against it, and we are often confused why others seem to have more of it than we do. How does that work?
I do take some comfort in the fact that St. Augustine, pondering the mystery of time, wrote in his confessions, “If no one asks me, I know; but if any person should require me to tell him, I cannot.”
So, why do we wish for more time? We often want it to go faster or slower depending on…whatever. Maybe these following thoughts can help orient us when so much is anticipated, to “change” as we move forward.
There is a story I recall that brings some of this home. It is about the death of a mate, where the husband shares with his brother-in-law a tissue wrapped package. “This, he said, is not a slip. It is lingerie.” He discarded the tissue and handed the slip to his brother-in-law. It was exquisite; silk, hand made, trimmed in lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it, was still attached. The husband then tells how his wife had bought the slip on a trip 8 or 9 years before, and she never wore it. She was saving it for a “special occasion”. Then he said, “I guess this is the occasion.” He took the slip and placed it on the bed with the other clothes they were taking to the mortician. After a pause, the husband turned and said, “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you are alive is a special occasion.”
Maybe we can resist putting off, holding back, or saving anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives, and thus to others, that God has entrusted to us. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Proverbs 3:7.
There is a difference between two theological constructs of time given us in Scripture. One is chronos, which is ordinary time, and the kind of time that sadly often gets our attention. Then there is kairos, which is God’s time. Eternity is not a time concept. It
has nothing to do with time at all, and therefore, it is almost impossible for us to conceive of eternity because we are rooted in time.
I read a quote not too long ago about this subject and it went something like this: “The vast majority of us spend at least half of each waking day in various pastimes that provide no earthly use or satisfaction for anyone – including ourselves.” Often, when I look up from my computer to check the clock, I am astounded at the amount of time that has passed, and how minimal the soul satisfaction is.
I would like to challenge each of us in our own space, to see if we can be “time redeemers” this year and beyond. Or, as Paul says, “Making the most of the time”. Ephesians 5:17.
It is very significant that in Psalm 90, (please take “time” to read Psalm 90) the only Psalm by Moses, God had him write on the subject of “Time”. From forty laid back years of tending sheep, to forty grueling years judging God’s people, Moses had experienced both extremes of time management: none needed, and control
demanded. Moses had gained a perspective of time and life that few others had. In Psalm 90, Moses detailed a godly perspective of time through a number of simple, yet profound thoughts. The title indicates that this is actually a prayer of Moses. (It might be noted here that when we pray, I believe we are, in fact, loving from chronos to kairos, but that is for another missive.)
Moses prays about God’s relation to time in the first four verses, and it might be thought of this way:
1) God exists throughout all ages, as both being there, and as a refuge. v.1. 2) God exists outside of time, pre-existing time, and inhabiting eternity. v. 2. 3) God controls the life spans of men, made from earth and returning to it, v.3. 4) God is not controlled by time, thus He remains ever present, v.4.
Moses talks about our relationship to time, in verses. 5-11. He uses the shortness of our time on earth to drive home the truth that we only have these few moments to redeem. All said, man is finite and governed by time! Moses is so moved by life’s brevity that in verse 12 he says, “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
We are (well, I am) a master at wasting time, so here are some ideas about not being mastered by (1 Corinthians 6:12) this time thing, wherein we are imprisoned.
Myth: “If only I had more time.”
God has given us all the time we need to do what He has designed us to do. Either we are investing in areas where we were not designed to be, or we are wasting the time we have been given.
Myth: “If I only had the time someone else has.”
This is not fate – we are all equally given 52 weeks each year, with 168 hours each week. The use of time is a decision, not a function of chance. It is hard to realize that 20 minutes redeemed each day would give us three 40-hour weeks each year! Please keep in mind a central truth here, that there is a “time for everything”, yet it takes a steward’s heart to fully enjoy the life, choices, and relationships that God has given us so that we can sit, play, relax, work, eat, sleep, converse, relate, reflect, laugh, and cry, with both freedom and presence.
Myth: “I will make up time”
Time is a non-renewable resource, a gift we cannot produce or control. We can only manage our lives within it.
Myth: “Time is money”
These two are not synonymous. Lost wealth can be regained – not so with time! More accurately, time is life…an opportunity to serve God and man from gratitude, and to see this time we have been ‘given’ as the gift it is.
Myth: “Busyness is next to godliness”
Since the scriptures rebuke slothfulness, we seem to have swung the pendulum to the other extreme. I want to be careful here, but often it seems we somehow think that work will win us the freedom that only grace can provide, and then we are soon caught in a cycle of busyness that can leave our hearts barren. Maybe it would be better said that obedience, the yielding to God’s ways, is next to godliness.
Well, all this is so that we can reflect again on the fact that each of us has been entrusted with a measure of time here under the sun – to bring weight to God’s name, and joy to our hearts. So, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to God a heart of wisdom”, which will satisfy our souls, and glorify His character. Then our lives will be marked as “a special occasion.”