Saturday, 4 February 2012

Time: The Great Obsession

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver
Are we obsessed with time?

The question, “How old are you?” is quite possibly the one question that we all ask each other more than any other. Ask that question of the pre-teen and they are likely to answer, “I am almost thirteen.” They want to be older than they actually are. Ask the thirteen year old the same question, and she replies, “I am almost sixteen.” As a teenager I remember lying about my age and saying I was twenty-one. It didn’t matter that I only looked fifteen; I wanted to be older. Then once we actually reach those mystical twenties, time seems to begin to accelerate and before we know it, the “old age” of youth is upon us and we turn thirty. It’s funny how we once viewed thirty as being “old.”

Suddenly we don’t want to get any older, as evidenced by the humorous way some of us celebrate many thirty-ninth birthdays. In jest I have even sometimes begun referring to birthdays as simply anniversaries of earlier birthdays. For example, my fiftieth birthday became the twenty-ninth anniversary of my twenty-first birthday. Are we obsessed with time?

I just read again about Methuselah who claims the title of being the oldest person who ever lived. He enjoyed 969 birthdays, or if you’d rather, 900 anniversaries of his sixty-ninth birthday. While I don’t know if this is actually true or not, I remember one author once saying that when we place Methuselah into the framework of history, he was likely one of the many who died in the flood of Noah’s day. If that is true, then it becomes interesting that old age didn’t kill him; drowning did.

In our culture, maybe we are obsessed with time. Everything runs on the clock. What time do you have to be at work? Oh, I start at 8:00 am. If I get there at 8:15 am, I am considered late. What time does church service start? It starts at 10:30 am. Not 10:30-ish, but precisely at 10:30. If you show up at 11:00 am, you will have missed half the service. It is interesting that if you ask what time church starts in some other cultures, the answer you’re likely to hear is, “Whenever the people get here.” 

In much of the third world there is a significantly more lax attitude about time. Society seems to function as if clocks were irrelevant. I cannot help but wonder if perhaps they, despite their primitiveness, know something that we don’t know. I cannot help but wonder if perhaps they are a little closer to God’s eternal view of time than you and I are.

The psalmist writes, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4; ESV). Likewise the Apostle Peter said, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8; ESV).

"Time Is Melting Away"
Photo Credit: Sari Choche
Foundational to the Christian faith is the belief in an eternity with the Lord where there is no such thing as time. As hard as I try, sometimes I can scarcely imagine that. The phrase “no time like the present” will one day have a completely different meaning when we suddenly find ourselves in the “eternal now.” Likewise the question, “How old are you?” will one day be completely devoid of meaning.

I love the image of the “Retirement Clock” where all the numbers appear to have fallen off the face of the clock and are piled indiscriminately at the bottom. The caption simply says, “Retired; Who Cares.” As the time of the Lord’s return draws ever nearer, and we face “retirement” from this old world, could it also maybe be time that we begin to lose our obsession with time? I wonder.

How old am I? Who cares.

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