Thursday, August 03, 2006

Time's Up

Was there ever a certain time in your life you wished would never end? A period of time spent with a loved one, a certain vacation or other happy experience, some event or encounter in which you found a special joy? It’s over now, isn’t it. If it’s not, it will be. You can’t hold on to it, no matter how hard you try. You can’t bring it back, no matter how much you would like to.

Perhaps on the other hand there was some terrible, painful time that you wanted to end as soon as possible, or something that you feared or dreaded. That too has passed. If not yet, it will. Time’s inexorable march slows down for no one. Everything comes and everything goes, swept along on the steady current of time.

We
cannot help but live and think in the context and concept of time. Our language is laced with it. Our days are organized by it. We might even feel harassed or oppressed by it. The clock tells us when to get up, when to go to work or to church or to some social event. It puts limits on what we can do. Depending on the nature of any given experience, time seems to drag or to rush by. In reality it is we who are dragging or rushing. Time just goes on, tick-tick-tick, steadily, without ever missing a beat. And the next hour or day or week or year arrives, right on schedule.

Where did the time go? we ask, when some pleasant experience has passed. At first that time stretched before us almost like the promise of an endless bit of paradise. But it’s over now. How quickly it passed! Yet time seems nearly to screech to an agonizing halt as some longed-for event slowly approaches, or when we’re in the midst of some dreaded ordeal. But it is moving, and it will come and it will go. And you are powerless to speed things up or slow them down. Time is merciless; it waits for no one. Yet time allows wounds to heal and pain to recede and the memory of bad experiences to fade.

Where am I going with this rather rambling reflection? Give me a little more time and I’ll make it clear. The main point is that time is leading somewhere, so we should not get bogged down in regrets about the past or fears about the future. Time had a beginning and it will have an end. It is a created reality and as such is under God’s will and control. Time is leading us to meet God face to face.

Eternity will not pass. Unlike time, it comes but it doesn’t go. Blessed are those who have spent their time in such a way as to secure an unending eternity of happiness. This everlasting “good time” will not slip through their fingers like the fleeting joys of this life; it will not be reduced to a memory. But woe to those whose misuse of time has gained them an eternity of suffering! There will be no hope for its passing. It will be infinitely worse than any agonizing wait or extended painful experience here on earth.

So take a little time to consider your own situation in life. Are you unhappy with the present condition or circumstances of your life? Don’t worry, it will pass. Are you comfortable, content, and trouble-free? Be careful, for this will pass as well. Are you dreading something or anxiously anticipating something? These too will come and go. But the most important thing to realize is that your life will come to an end, perhaps sooner than you think. Tick, tick, tick, goes the clock. There will come a moment when your soul departs from your body, just as there will come a moment when time ceases and the Lord comes to judge the living and the dead. There will be a day of reckoning and a fulfillment of the promises of God.

Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Rev. 12:10). This moment is still in the future, but it is coming, for time advances relentlessly. When it comes it will be the only reality, for our entrance into eternity will have begun. Are you ready to hear those words thundering in the heavens?

What do you see when you look back on your life? All the experiences of your 20 or 40 or 60 or 80 years of life have come and gone. They went by like dusk to dawn. Where have they led you and where are you going now? Perhaps it is time to reflect on time. The sand is pouring through the hourglass.

You can’t retrieve the past. You can’t manipulate the future. But you can live the present moment well. You can accept the passing nature of things and not cry over spilled milk, missed opportunities, or broken relationships. You can find healing, reconciliation, and hope for radical newness of life in Him who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Master of time and the ultimate Fulfillment of every worthy desire.

What time is it? Jesus could say at a certain moment, “the hour has not yet come.” Yet soon He realized, “Now the hour has come.” Or in a colloquial paraphrase: “Time’s up!” The hour is coming. You may be late for everything else, but let me assure you that you’ll be on time for Judgment Day. The present moment is the only one you’ve got. Whatever you do, don’t waste it. Tick, tick, tick, tick…