Friday, December 04, 2020

On Time

I think a lot about time. You might say, I spend a lot of time thinking about time. 

And here are two core convictions: Time is a gift. And we spend time on what we love. I'll add to those, since it's the season of Advent, that when God comes to us in Christ in the Incarnation and inhabits time, God sanctifies time. This post then is what sanctified time looks like.

Speaking of the Incarnation, perhaps the most profound and counter-intuitive statement Jesus spoke was this: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19). 

Without reflection, we might think he said the reverse: where our heart is, there our treasure will be. In this version of Jesus, we adjust our inner attitude, and then we do the right actions. 

But the order is different, and that fact is critical: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”Our hearts follow our treasures. I.e., what we spend our time is what we love, and the more time we spend the more our love grows. Invest your time in a church or nonprofit and see how you begin to care more about it. 

But why then do I often spend my time so poorly? Why do I not inhabit the present moment?


The problem is that we seem to live in every other time but the present. We throw away our time like it's dispensable. We don't treasure it. 

Blaise Pascal, the brilliant seventeenth-century scientist and theologian, offered a profound meditation on this topic: 

Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so. (italics added)

Or as the brilliant writer, Anne Lamott puts it, God wants to give us the child’s experience of “big, round hours." 

This thought, like so many, takes me to St. Clive, aka C. S. Lewis, who puts the problem of human existence—or better the ongoing temptation of time—into the mouth of a devil, Screwtape in his fictional correspondence,The Screwtape Letters. 

Screwtape writes to his junior devil, Wormwood, that “we want a man hag-ridden by the Future” because in essence the future does not yet exist and it takes his eyes off the present moment. 

"We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present."

And now back to Pascal; this also comes from Pensées

"So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists.” 


Unknown said...

If only in the age of instant gratification the promise of fulfillment wasn’t so easy. We can usually get what we want but not what we need.

My Reflections said...

Well put--nothing to add except that consumerism means that we've also learned to consume, and not savor, time.