Saturday, November 20, 2021

A focus on time. . .

One of the fruits of the choice made in Eden was to fully embrace time, particularly the present moment, and with it a sense of personal destiny.  Adam and Eve were not simply making a choice about God but about themselves and the moment.  They literally seized the day from the hands of God who created time itself and placed man within it.  They and we, who learned it from them, decided to define time and to make each person the center of that definition.  Time is not simply time after the Fall.  It is my time, my destiny, my future, my life.  

In our distorted view of time, we have invented such things as personal fulfillment, as a life worth living, bucket lists, preferences above truth, feelings to define truth, and true to self as the most important value of all.  We have wrested this thing called time from the hands of God and made it our own.  But we have chosen an illusion of time in which we can make chart our destiny, right our wrongs, judge for ourselves, and make our peace with death.  Nowhere is this more telling than the way we have made life something expendable -- from the child ripped from the womb at the whim of a choice to the aged whom we determine to be living a life no one would want to the suicides we justify because we chose to end a life we no longer judged worth living (and especially because we have charged the physician with making our choice as painless to us as possible).  Couple this with our deification of a painless life either from drugs that dull the hurt to pleasure's pursuit to distract us from any loss and we see what time is like when it is a curse and burden.

Even Christians are not without being tempted by this false and misleading view of time in which we are its center and it the very object of God's creation we were created to exploit.  The reality is, however, that time without God is nothing but a curse.  Without God as its center, it is the worst of all possible burdens to be saddled with and a fruitless endeavor for a predictable end.  It is not simply that God rescues us from the burdens of time gone wrong with the resurrection but that God takes back time from us and gives us His time back.

We have succeeded only in speeding up time and stealing from it any real rest that might give us pause.  Harnessing technology was supposed to set us free but it only sped up the pace of our lives and left us even more a prisoner of the moments death allows us.  Once we seemed defined by our past but now we have cast off all restraint and seem determined to redefine our past according to the passing values and virtues of the present.  So enamored are we with ourselves that we have replaced religion with a woke view of ourselves, our past, and our future.  We have little room for any God except sentiment to divert us from the things we either don't want to deal with or the things we don't think we can.  So much have we distorted the blessing of time with our self-absorbed lives that we fail to see how time can be a blessing, how baptismal vocation rescues us with a purpose and a real future not even death can steal, and how absolution and the Eucharist nurture us along this journey to its consummation in the presence of God who gave us life and redeemed us when we squandered it away.

We fight daily with an urge to live large in this life, to consume instead of produce, to find ease instead of service, and to make death as natural as we have deemed life.  In doing so, we are urged along by St. Paul to walk worthy not of this life but of the God who rescued us from sin and delivered to us a life beyond imagination with Him.  We pursue this life not on our own or for ourselves but as a people set apart for the good works that shine Christ's light into our darkness and find our purpose not in us but in the Lord who made us for Himself.  This is what sanctification does -- it make us holy, of course, but it also makes holy again the day.  This day is not ours to do with as we please but the day of salvation with Christ as its center and purpose and goal.  Sanctification is the restoration of time by restoring us to our place before God and within His gift of time so that we might live for Him who died for us.  He died for us that those who live should not live for themselves but for Him.  That is how time is given back to us and we to it.

Stewardship is the living out of this sanctification -- the acknowledgement that everything we have that is good has been given to us by God and is good only when we use it for His purposes.  It begins by seeing those in our care as our great gift and, yes, responsibility.  It continues when we see our neighbor as a gift and, yes, responsibility.  In these relationships are framed our earthly existence and purpose but these are not simply ends.  They are means -- the means by which we give thanks to God for His gift and the means by which His gift becomes blessing and, by grace, rewarded by God with the surprise of His notice even though we acknowledge our efforts are paltry and flawed.  Stewardship is our use of time first of all -- gift, blessing, and vocation.  Everything else in our stewardship pales in comparison to time and flows from the right ordering of our days.

I have found that Christians sometimes justify their view of time through the lens of Ecclesiastes:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what 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 seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, 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 for war, and a time for peace.

Yet as pleasing as the symmetry of these words is, they are law without God to rescue us from their hopeless end.  They would seem to fit the whole circle of life thing but they do not.  They do not address life we have made our peace with but point us to the life that God has redeemed -- the life lived in the palm of His hand, the same hand that rescued us from the end we had chosen when we thought we were choosing a grant and glorious version of ourselves that was better than God could ever have planned for us.  

Well, I have rambled enough for one day.  My meandering thoughts were far flung and somewhat disjointed but I hope you find some sense in it. . . 

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

I’m afraid we not only did it to ourselves in the Garden, but along came St. Benedict, and reinforced it. Not saying that work, and the daily hours of prayer are a bad idea, but dividing our time by the hours on a clock face may tend to place our focus on ourselves and not on our Lord.