If there’s one thing shared among western cultures, it is our relationship with time. And it’s quite a dicey relationship, largely because a precise concept of this thing we call time always seems just out of reach.
Historically, we, as a culture, have tended to reform abstract or incomprehensible concepts to reflect something more acceptable or understandable. Perhaps this explains how the character, ‘Father Time’ came to be. He stands over us in old folklore and children’s books with his scythe and hourglass. The personification of time, he reminds us all that we don’t have as much time left as we used to.
I can still hear the voice of my high school headmaster trying to impart his knowledge to us based on his years of life experience: “If only we could put an old head on your young shoulders, you could all be saved from learning things the hard way.” What he was really saying is, he wished he could buy us all some precious time in our lives.
Ironically, youth never heeded his advice. We did go on, though, to pass the same wise words down to the next generation after time had taught us the age-old lessons it had once taught my headmaster.
The Shared Sentiment
How often do we yearn for the ability to control time? If the songs we listen to on the radio are any indication, the answer is quite a bit.
When the Rolling Stones once suggested that time was on our side , they weren’t reciting popular opinion. We’re more likely to relate to Cher in wishing to turn back time or to the Australian band, Powderfinger, when they sang, “It’s coming round again, the slowly creeping hand, of time and its command… These days turned out nothing as I had planned” (These Days).
And isn’t that the case for so many of us? The moment our older, more experienced head sits firmly attached to our shoulders, we reflect on what might have been if we’d only done things differently. If only the shackles of time could be loosened and we could have just one more roll of the dice.
Making the Most of Our Time
The writer of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, made it his life’s mission to experience everything under the sun. Ultimately, though, he concluded it all to be meaningless. In his book, Solomon warned us of time’s grip on our lives. He urged us not to waste the life we have left as he said, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Without God and the hope that exists in his grace, life in the rear view mirror can appear meaningless or plunge us into a pool of regret. Time becomes our greatest enemy instead of our greatest asset when we choose not to view it through the lens of God’s redemption.
However, our hope reminds us that the keys to the shackles of time are not in the hands of Father Time but instead in the hands of the One who created time in the beginning.
Related Post: How Will You Use the Past?
Overcoming the temptation to look constantly into the review mirror of life isn’t an easy feat.
Just ask Lot’s wife (Genesis 19). It goes against our natural way of thinking and our tendency to focus on ourselves rather than Christ. But as we remind ourselves the truth, we can join with the Psalmist in prayer:
“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:4-5)
When we set our sights on things above rather than on what lies behind us, we will find the grace to make the most of each moment. The grace to make the most of each moment without fear for how our time is numbered.