As I write this – a couple of weeks ago – it was one month after my wife and I were just arriving in Rome for our 12-day group tour of Italy, and one week since I was getting prepared for a heart valve replacement. I remember looking ahead to both of these events, along with the wedding of our granddaughter in Ohio several weeks earlier. Now, all three have come and gone, with new things to anticipate. And our lives go on.
Time is a funny thing. Science tells us it’s constant, that a minute is always a minute long, that a day is always 24 hours, and a year is always 365 days – except for leap year, when it’s 366. But have you ever had the thought, “This has been the longest day!” and then heard someone say the same thing? Conversely, occasionally we say, “This day has flown by,” and another person responds, “It sure has!” So, is time really all that constant?
My purpose is not to debate or conjecture the space-time continuum. I prefer to stick with things I know about. But what do we have that’s more precious than time? We might say it’s money, but for most of us, there are always ways of making or generating more money, whether it’s working more or selling stuff. However, we can’t generate more time – and we can’t really save it. You can’t put it into a safety deposit box, or stash it into a self-storage unit. It comes and goes, whether we’re ready for it or not. Today turns into yesterday in a flash, and tomorrow transforms into today before we know it.
When I was young, I remember summer vacations seemed to go on forever. But as I got older, those idyllic breaks in the educational process started moving faster and faster, until the summer seemed little more than a eye’s blink. As they say, time takes wings when you’re having fun.
As an adult in the business world, I attended classes on “time management.” If there’s ever been anything less accurately named, I can’t think of it. Because we can’t “manage” time. We can only use it as it comes and try not to waste the moments before they flee.
Not that we must squeeze every possible ounce of activity and productivity out of every minute. In Italy, it was interesting to see many shops and even restaurants close during the midday to give workers a couple of hours to rest. The Spanish call it a “siesta.” As I’ve written before, we Americans can become enslaved to the tyranny of the urgent.
At the same time, the Scriptures admonish us to “redeem the time for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). In other words, missed opportunities won’t return to give us a second shot at them. Sometimes this means working in earnest to meet an important deadline; sometimes it means savoring the opportunity to enjoy the company of loved ones and friends, even when speaking words isn’t necessary.
As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reminds us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to tear down and a time to build…a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain…a time to be silent and a time to speak….”
There’s one other time reference that immediately comes to mind when I consider the Scriptures. It’s when God gives us time to interact with others about eternal, spiritual truths. As Colossians 4:5 states, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” Is there a moment when you can encourage another believer in his or her spiritual pilgrimage? Do it now. Do you encounter a non-believer who seems receptive to talking about Jesus? Speak with them now.
And if God presents you with a situation where you can demonstrate His love and kindness to someone else, don’t hesitate: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”(Galatians 6:10). Remember, time flies!