It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on the end of another year. This milestone gives me pause to ponder yet once again the great mystery of time. We read in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 these timeless lines:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
The word time, twenty-nine times in these few verses. The word is wearying just in the reading.
Tem-pus fu-git: “time flies.” As my dear grandmother once told me, “Michael, the older we get, the faster time flies.” Wise words, as I have come to experience.
Is time eternal? Is it uniform? Does it speed up or slow down? Is it imaginary? How is it defined? Profound questions. Einstein certainly pondered them.
In scientific terms, time is a “constant” of natural law and is defined as the distance light travels in one second: some 186,282 miles. By comparison, at sea level sound travels at 767.2 mph. Thus, light travels some 242 times faster than sound. Human senses can perceive the speed of sound but not light. We see a bolt of lightning and then hear the clap of thunder that follows and perceive that they are not simultaneous.
We learn in high school physics the concept of infinity, represented by the symbol ∞. We speak of God in terms of infinity and eternity.
Our biological existence takes place in a continuum of an unfolding present, some of which is under our control and some of which is not. We know that these unfolding “presents” will eventually come to an end and at that instant our souls will transition to eternity.
This is a profound mystery worthy of reflection. How do we prepare for an existence from a lifetime of “instances” to one of “finitude”? In our state of eternity, might our souls be tormented by all the “might-have-beens” of our earthly existence?
It leads me to reflect on Jesus’ words about building treasure in heaven from his “Sermon On the Mount ”, Matthew 6: 19-20:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”
What point is Jesus making here? I believe He is asking His listeners to lift their sights, motivations and goals beyond the immediate issues of life from minute-to-minute to a longer-range horizon: elevating our reason for existence beyond what has been called the “pleasure principle” to a loftier place--nourishment for the soul which we will inhabit for all eternity.
This is a worthy and ancient sentiment reflected even in this Aesop fable.
The Ants & the Grasshopper
One bright day in late autumn a family of Ants were bustling about in the warm sunshine, drying out the grain they had stored up during the summer, when a starving Grasshopper, his fiddle under his arm, came up and humbly begged for a bite to eat. “What!” cried the Ants in surprise, “haven't you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?” “I didn't have time to store up any food,” whined the Grasshopper; “I was so busy making music that before I knew it the summer was gone.” The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust. “Making music, were you?” they cried. “Very well; now dance!” And they turned their backs on the Grasshopper and went on with their work.
There's a time for work and a time for play.
Many people are defined by their “work”. Some of us, when our professional and working-for-pay lives are over, conclude that our working days are over and retirement is our well-deserved time for rest and play. Well, yes.
However, it is also a time—given all those work-day hours that have been freed up—to devote time and energy to building treasure in heaven; preparing ourselves for eternity. I, for one, don’t want to spend my time in eternity regretting all the “should haves, could haves and would haves” of my earthly existence.
So…as this year 2019 rapidly comes to a close and we prepare to celebrate anew the birth of our Messiah--heralding another new beginning, and a new year with ever-increasing light in our days—may we all resolve to lengthen our sights in 2020 beyond the immediate living of every second, minute and hour of our days to building that treasure in heaven of which Jesus spoke.
You will know what that means when the situation presents itself.