August. Oh, no! Summer is almost over…. It is a cry heard across the country as Memorial Day Weekend and July Fourth celebrations are in the rear-view mirror, and we look toward Labor Day and the beginning of a new school year. And while not everyone loves the steamy days of summer, the evaporation of what we like to think of as a “break” in our daily schedules and the return of a “back to work” mentality has most of us feeling a bit disconcerted.
Where did the summer go? I would like to suggest that it would be more profitable for us to consider our frustrations with the passing of time within the broader context of Biblical and human history.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth….” So the beginning of Genesis goes. And while we often jump to God’s creation of mankind, it is worth considering that God created day and night, morning and evening, the sun, moon, and stars. When God breathes life into Adam and creates Eve from Adam’s rib, they have the rhythm of the planet and of life itself as a foundation for exercising sovereign care over creation.
But with the fall, time—like the entirety of God’s good creation—becomes distorted. Thistles and thorns make finding and growing food difficult and time consuming. The misuse of free will consumes more time in broken coordination and conflict. Time becomes a precious resource that fallen man will abuse and waste along with the rest of the resources the LORD God has provided. And now, millenia after the fall, we have become adept at cutting time corners as we depend on fast food meals, online shopping, multi-tasking, and copious caffeine consumption as we get less and less sleep. Indeed, time is such a limited resource that Benjamin Franklin’s observations that “time is money” rings very true in our culture.
True confession: I am perpetually busy and time conscious. The white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland”—Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”—rings very true. I am usually in a hurry, and I am often running late or too close to it. I have done a good bit of pondering about my discomfort with time has a long history and runs deep. Beside the generic issues of the fall, I see two specific consequences that illuminate and magnify my struggles with time. The first is my brokenness and my sin-laden response to hurt and trauma in my past. I have a history of shame: not belonging, not measuring up. My fallen human response has been to try harder, to earn my place, prove my worth. Those efforts are major wastes of time, almost always leaving me with too little left for everything else. The second consequence echoes the fall itself: not only do we know both good and evil, we practice both good and evil. And so once again, the time we use our time to pursue the desires of our flesh, to pursue evil, leaving us with less time to do good.
But as the LORD pronounced the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fateful choice, He also promised the Messiah. The Apostle Paul proclaims an important truth in his epistle to the Romans: “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17). And it is in Christ that we can find our identity and value without wasting time trying to earn or prove it. And it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can use more of our time doing good and less pursuing evil.
I often marvel at the Jesus that we see consistently depicted in the Gospel accounts of His time on earth. Jesus never rushes; He is never in a hurry. He welcomes interruptions as opportunities, and He always has time for any and all who came to Him. It is both convicting and inspiring. And it isn’t just that Jesus models for us the Godly use of time. By dying on our behalf, Christ—the One—earned for us our righteousness, our rightness with God and our eternal identity as heirs of heaven. We have no need to spin our time wheels trying to earn or prove our salvation. And by sending the Holy Spirit, we have the power that raised Christ from the dead living within us to turn away from the desires of the flesh.
Again, I turn to the wisdom of the Apostle Paul: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16). This does not mean that we rush from one ministry opportunity to another with no discernment or rest. It is, however, an invitation to accept time as a gift from the Lord, to use for His good purposes and His glory. If we are to take Paul’s words to heart, we must align our perspective of time with Him and see our frustration with time as a call to grow and to grow together in faith. May we encourage one another to use our God-given gifts with wisdom and we walk toward eternity.