Time… we think about it, worry about it, sing about it… Here are two of my favorites:
I grew up watching TV shows about time…
Sometimes, particularly when the demands placed upon us are high, we practically obsess over it – particularly about how we don’t “have enough of” it.
In the next few posts, I’d like to share something I’ve gleaned from (among others) Jean Vanier, that has made a huge practical and spiritual difference in my life: Becoming a “friend of time.”
We entertain a lot of thoughts regarding time, but not usually about making friends with it.
Isaac Newton thought that time was an eternal entity unto itself, which “of itself, and from its own nature flows equably without regard to anything external.” However, the more we explore the intricacies of our universe, particularly at the levels of the very small or the very large (or the very fast), we realize that time isn’t in itself transcendent and unchangeable. How could it be? Such a description only could apply to the Eternal God.
Actually, as theologians have reasoned for centuries, time itself is a part of the created universe. It didn’t exist before God spoke the world into being. Matter and time alike were created (we believe ex nihilo, from nothing) through the word of the Eternal.
OK, so God made time. Huh? That’s difficult to understand or picture… but most believers don’t struggle with the idea that “God made” all the “stuff” of the universe out of nothing… even though we can’t picture that any better. We’re just more used to hearing about it. Unlike us God is not contained within time, just as God is not contained within the physical universe.
So time, however we see it, is a part of creation. And what do we, as believers, know about creation? Two things spring to mind: First, God created it “good.” And, second, it has been distorted by the corruption of sin. Paul in his letter to the Church at Rome says that “the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now” (Rom. 8:22, RSV) awaiting its full redemption.” Part of the way sin has affected creation (which was made to be good, a blessing, a daily, constant gift from the Eternal, with which we were intended to have a mutually beneficial relationship) is that creation has been turned into a commodity, something to be collected, carved up, saved, bought, sold.
It’s easy to see how we have made a mess of our environment turning “creation” into a commodity. But have you ever considered how TIME has been affected by that same process?
What do we do with time? Consider our language: We spend time, save time, lose time, mark time, waste time, keep time, kill time, divide time, keep track of time, take our time, make time for or devote time to things. We play for time, fight for time, measure time, shave time (off our commute). We try to beat the clock (because, after all, “time is money”), etc. (We spend an awful lot of time doing things relating to time… but very little actively “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16, KJV). But more about that later.
It’s easy to treat time as just another commodity… we’re well trained to do it. In all the above instances, it seems that we are fighting for it and with it. Time rules us and dictates the nature and shape of our lives and our relationships.
In a social and economic context that looks at pretty much everything in terms of its market value (“everything has its price”), we privilege productivity: output per unit time (“widgets per hour,” output per unit time). Thus, it becomes something we can buy, sell and swap out. Like other commodities, it’s governed by supply and demand. And like all valuable commodities, the supply always seems to be lacking… it always seems about to run out. It’s valuable, a treasure – and we can never seem to get enough of it.
So time is not our friend, it’s our adversary – if not our enemy.
As an aspect of creation, time is inevitably corrupted and in need of redemption. So it’s not really surprising that we have turned it into a commodity designed to enhance human wealth and productivity rather than taking time to bring glory to God the Creator or be with God’s creatures.
Time is an organic part of creation. But we’ve made a mechanism out of it. Time is no longer seen as a good gift of a great God; it’s something governed by a machine we call a clock. Our world has taken that which was made to be something in which we can experience God and reduced it to something mechanical.
And the world tries to do that with us – reduce us to passive machines.
So, given how we’ve so misused and mistreated time, how can we make peace with it before it destroys us?
This post is the first in a series, which continues here.