Saturday, December 05, 2009

How We Think About Time

Photo credit: View with a grain of sand by lepiaf.geo (better off slipping into blur)

Time is the one commodity that is uniformly distributed among the billions of people on this planet. Every one of us receives 24 hours, 3600 seconds per hour, doled out once each day. The only folks who do not receive their daily allotment are those who are not yet born and those who have died.

Time can be neither stored nor borrowed. The 24 hours given to each us passes inexorably at the same rate for all of us.*

Time flows uniformly, yet we seldom speak of it that way.

I have no time.
I need to kill some time.
We will lose time.
We are out of time.
He worked overtime.
I need to find some time.
Please give me some time.
Your time is up.
I saved some time.
I spent too much time.

We must remember that we do not spend time. Rather we make choices about what we will do as time passes. We may try to fit too many, or too few, activities into a span of time. It is our choices that may vary. Time does not change.

We speak of time passing quickly, or slowly. However, it is our awareness of time passing that varies, not time itself. A common change in awareness occurs as we grow older. We say that each year is shorter. In other cases our perception of time's flow can change in an instant. Time flies when we are having fun, yet it nearly stops altogether when we are in great pain. A moment is all that is required to pass from one state to the other.

Now is a moment. All other time is past or future. The events in time past are unchangeable. Events in our future on this earth cannot be predicted dependably. Not by us.

What we do. What we are. What we hope to be. We impact with each choice we make during each moment we are given. Plans have no value for predicting the future. Their value is in helping us to choose now.

I thank God that my plans (and yours) are not the basis for our hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God grants us the ability to make choices in the moment. He retains sovereignty over the outcome. If there seems to be a conflict between our ability to choose and his ability to plan, it is because God's relationship to time is not constrained as ours is.

2 Peter 3:8 (New International Version)

8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

It is only by God's grace that we can redeem the time we are given.

*There are concepts in relativistic physics that allow a clock to tick measurably slower (relative to ours) when it travels at high speeds (relative to us). The effect here on the face of the earth is so small that very few are ever aware of the minuscule variations.

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