Welcome to our new guest post series about "time."
How do we use it? Misuse it? Many of us spend so much time complaining we don't have enough of it, but how often are we grateful for what we actually have? It is a gift we receive every day...a fresh allotment. But how will we spend it? And what values shape how we use it? As we reflect, may there be space to consider how and where we spend our precious seconds of this gift.
C.S. Lewis once wrote a book called Surprised by Joy. Sometimes I think he should’ve written a sequel called Surprised by Time. He did allude to the thought, once, however:
If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don’t feel at home there? Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Of if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always been, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures?
Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (“How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up & married! I can hardly believe it!”) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.
We are constantly surprised by time, because we are made for eternity.
So in trying to find “enough time” and create the eternity we’re made for out of the time we live in, we never really live at all. It is not your fault you feel rushed, that time moves too quickly: you are an eternal being surrounded by the suffocating fog of time.
But what does it get us, all the rushing? Do we ever really get to where we’re going, ever catch up, ever slow down? We hope we will—we lie to ourselves that we will—but we never do, and meanwhile, our hearts are trampled and Jesus fades to the background. “What makes any of us think that the place we are trying to reach is far, far ahead of us somewhere and the only way to get there is to run until we drop?” (~Barbara Brown)
The Absurdity of the Lord
Yet if I forgot my culture and upbringing for one moment and examine Scripture, I would have no category for the absurdity of the Lord’s view of time. The past, present, and future cheerfully mesh as one in visions and dreams, time stops when needed and starts again when you’re ready, people come back to life when their time is ended too soon and Yahweh tells His people to do the most unproductive things imaginable (I don’t believe today’s church would approve lying on one’s side for a year as a viable ministry) and then a flurry of activity by the angels accomplishes more in an afternoon than you could’ve in a decade, and a universe is created in a week and the God of that universe works construction for 30 years.
Jesus also has the most ridiculously upside down view of time. In fact, I think He would drive a lot of us up a wall.
“Jesus, when are you going to start your ministry? You’re already old, you’re wasting time, you have to make the most of your life. Jesus, why are you walking everywhere, that is so inefficient. Don’t spend 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus, there’s so much to do. Jesus, we have to get there before Lazarus dies, we need to hurry, hurry faster! Jesus, you should move to a bigger city where you can reach more people. Jesus, we have to go now, Jesus, your family needs you. Jesus, we have a plan for healing all these people. Triage, Jesus, triage—don’t mess with the dead people, because you can’t help them, and those children are healthy—get to these lepers over here who are dying! Jesus, stories take too long to tell, you should get to the point with an outline and conclusion and three main points. Jesus, you’re not planning ahead, we don’t have any food for these people. A plan, Jesus, make a plan!”
Jesus rose from the dead: there are no time constraints. Death itself works backwards in His kingdom. Time can do the same.
Jesus acted as if time didn’t even exist. That’s because He lived in eternity, in a world where time went backward and forward and stopped and paused, because He held a thousand years in a day, and a day could turn to a thousand years.
But we don’t believe that, and we stubbornly worship the supremacy of time instead of the Lordship of Christ; we don’t live for Him but for tomorrow, and tomorrow never, ever comes.
Our belief in the supremacy of time is one of the greatest bringers of shame in our lives. We’re constantly bombarded with the belief that we’re not enough, haven’t done enough, are wasting time and need to be more efficient and get more done, always more, never enough. Work harder. Be better. Earn your salvation.
But what if it could be different? What if what seemed to be our greatest curse was actually our deepest blessing, what if you could be woken up from your nightmare to the sun streaming through the window and the assurance that the fear and the darkness was a lie?
What if time meant hope?
Alternately, how will you treat time in the New Earth? You have unimaginable endless eternity before you. You have nothing you have to accomplish today. Or this week. Or this century. There is nothing you need, Jesus will take care of you. You can throw out your plans and follow the Holy Spirit instead—after all, it’s His New Earth, and you finally have time to follow Him, so of course you will trust Him now that you don’t have to control your life.
Maybe that needs to be rethought just a bit.
What if you lived in this earth more like you will live in the new one—what if your mindset is that there is enough time? That you are living in eternity? That this desperation in having not enough time is not true?
What does that feel like to your heart, to be here, to be present? To treat time as you once did as a child, when you could get lost in the moment and lived in and loved the now, not the tomorrow? What if you could let go of the tension in your stomach, the knot that is always pushing to finish, to check off, to move on. How does it feel to stop living in the lie of time, to live as a Christian and not as a pagan? What would it be like to be free?
It would be the utter relief of holiness.
The Idolatry of Time
Indeed, there is so much we desperately need to hear. We need to hear Jesus say, It’s all right—you don’t have to feel guilty anymore—I will take care of time—there is always hope. But there is more. We need to know that wasting time does not mean wasting life—and lost time does not mean lost life—and efficiency is sometimes unholy, and compulsive busyness is the one sin we refuse to acknowledge.
Sometimes, Satan doesn’t need to make sinful Christians. He just needs to make busy ones.
But we don’t want to think it’s a sin, because if it is, we’d have to change something.
And we don’t want to do that.
We want to feel busy, because the moment we stop, we’re confronted with ourselves, with the great yawning chasm that is our soul, with our desires and longings and shattered dreams and the kingdom of God and all of the stabbing pain in this beautiful, terrible world.
I’m not saying things don’t need to be done. Heaven knows you should take out the garbage, attend the meeting, go to work.
But sometimes, the garbage can wait until tomorrow.
Sometimes, you can arrive late to the meeting.
Sometimes, you can quit your job.
Sometimes, you can breathe, and you can live, and you can have abundant life.
Sometimes, you can push back against the idol of time even when every other Christian you know is worshipping it—and say no.
But we wouldn’t want to do that. That would be hard, that would require sacrifice. It’d be offensive, making us confront our fears and needs and desires and families and friends. It would require us to give up the idols that kept us safe and confident and earning our salvation. It wouldn’t be mainline Christianity and certainly not mainstream culture. It would require that we change, leave our box, stop looking religious, and live in an entirely different kingdom.
But then, I thought that’s what following Jesus meant.
Hannah Rivard is an actress, horse trainer, and writer, and a recent graduate of Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN. While raised in rural Minnesota alongside killer roosters and attack cats, she now travels extensively as the Lord shapes her life through her combination of horses, film, and the fight for social justice. One of Hannah’s greatest desires is to see people set free into the beauty, adventure, danger, and glory of this world—the life they always longed to live. You can learn more about Hannah by checking out her horse training at https://cambriaequine.com/ and spiritual musings at http://www.prayersoflight.blogspot.com/.