Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Challenges of Handling the Times of Our Lives

Does it ever seem to you that time moves faster some days than others? Scientists will tell us that the passage of time is constant, but haven’t you had moments when you said to someone, “Man, it seems like today has gone on forever,” and they responded, “It sure has.” Or, “Wow, this day has just flown by,” and your friend replied, “Yes, I know!”


The years can be like that, too. In just a few days I’ll mark the 14th anniversary of my open-heart surgery. For a long time it seemed as if my surgery were just days ago; I could vividly remember the days leading up to it, the day I was wheeled into the OR, and the days, weeks and months of recovery afterward. But now, it seems like an entire lifetime ago. Lots of “water under the bridge” since then, as they say. That’s probably more than 500 million heartbeats ago!


When I was a boy, time seemed to pass at the pace of a slug. Days leading up to Christmas seemed interminable. Even the night of Christmas Eve seemed to be at least 36 hours long. Try as I might, I couldn’t fall to sleep, my mind racing with anticipation. It seemed as if daylight would never arrive. Now it feels as if fall lasts only about two days before sliding into winter; the Christmas holidays come and go in the blink of an eye.


Many Americans tend to be governed by the clock. We set alarms to wake up, have reminders to keep us on schedule each day, even pass on lunch breaks because, “I don’t have time.” In our latter years, however, we look wistfully back at our lives, wishing we had made time for important things in our lives rather than subjecting ourselves to “the tyranny of the urgent.”


The Scriptures tell us a lot about time, but not in the way we generally approach it. The book of Ecclesiastes, for example, offers a refreshing perspective:

“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 kill and a time to heal, 

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance, 

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away, 

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).


For those of us convinced that we don’t have the time to do necessary things – because more urgent things are beckoning – this passage is convicting.


This is especially significant during a season such as this. Even with COVID restrictions, most of us to one extent or another want to continue with holiday traditions; we’re not about to let a little virus tell us what we can and can’t do. 


But it’s really not about squeezing the last second into our planning and errand-running. Rich or poor, executive or hourly wage worker, we all have something in common: 24 hours in a single day, 60 minutes in every hour, 60 seconds in every minute. The question is how we steward those seconds, minutes and hours. We’ll invest the time in some way – what will be the return on our investment?


Ephesians 5:16 offers these sobering words: “Redeeming the time, for the days are evil.” Other translations phrase it, “making the most of your time” or “making the most of every opportunity.” Time isn’t inherently evil, of course, but as the adage reminds us, “Time waits for no one.”


So how are we going to use it? Will our minutes, hours and days be spent on frivolous pursuits, matters we won’t even remember weeks or months from now? Or will we strive to keep alert, poised to recognize and act upon special, even once-in-a-lifetime opportunities when they present themselves?


Just a handful of days from now, Christmas will be upon us. Will we succeed in making memories, or will we spoil them because we’ve been too busy with trivial concerns? After that, we’ll barely have time to catch our breath before a new year emerges and, hopefully, doesn’t become a repeat of the year just past. How will we prepare ourselves for what lies ahead?


I like the advice of Galatians 6:10, Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” We can’t go wrong if we do that.

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