One of the reasons I feel we misunderstand and misuse our time is because we do not view it as a gift. We generally move from day to day with the assumption that there will be another. The consequences? We move from activity to activity, meeting to meeting, shopping spree to movie night, barely able to take it all in. We can easily fall into a sort of stupor where we are kind of sleepwalking through our days, entranced by the ticking of our watches and how our culture defines our day. All the while, we are never fully awakened to the gift at hand, one more day in the presence of God.
I am reminded of the temptation scene in the desert, when the Tempter takes Jesus up to the winglet of the temple and tries to get Jesus to take time into his own hands. The enemy wants Jesus to skip over the painful death of the cross and jump straight to the demonstration of power at the resurrection. But if Jesus did that, he would not have accomplished his goal. Jesus, fully human, must also die as a human and defeat the curse of death once and for all… God’s final pursuit for humanity… God’s purpose for his very existence.
You may be asking yourselves right now, what does that have to do with time? Jesus did go on to defeat death once and for all? Right? But the temptation is still the same for us. We are consumed as a culture with not dying… believing somehow that we will not die. We do not like to think about or talk about our own mortality. It makes us really uncomfortable… mostly because we know we can’t control it. We can’t control the gift of our time here on earth.
We as a culture are fixated on extending our lives…. By building huge ongoing estates, monuments to ourselves, by getting botox and face lifts and everything else that might help us avoid the inevitable. In many ways we are devaluing the aging process. Any reminders of the aging process are neatly tucked away in a retirement home so that we can ignore the fact that we, each day, are moving toward our own mortality. For persons who become sick before their time, we have come up with some sick theological answers that make us feel surer that we will not have to die like them.
We are cheating ourselves to not be mindful of our own mortality… because when we do that, we live not pursuing God and the eternal home we will have with him, we live pursuing the immediate gratifications that our world has to offer… and often, those gratifications are actually killing us, shortening our lives. I am not just talking about vices like smoking, gluttony or drugs… I am also talking about over working and over achieving… for what?
I love the tradition of the Ash Wednesday service when we mark our foreheads with ashes and remember that once we were dust and to dust we will return. We are created from dust and will return to dust… but the beauty is that we will once again have the Creator breathe life into us and we too will rise again.
We will die… there is no skipping over that… but we can choose how we will live our days…. What things we will pursue. And like the rich life of Jesus in the years that followed, we can enjoy a rich, spiritually rewarding life.
Many of us have played the game of “if I had just one day or week left on the earth, how would I spend it?” The answers can range from spending all of one’s money traveling to unexplored places to spending time with loved ones. But underneath all of the responses people generally acknowledge that they will stop doing the trivial and less meaningful things to fully indulge in the moment at hand. It is, if you will, an invitation to a more contemplative life style, indulging ourselves in the movement of God each day.
Perhaps we do need to ponder our own mortality… acknowledge the uncertainty and frailty of life here on earth. How might that change the way we live each day? How does that change the way we view time? We can also ponder spending an eternity with God in a resurrected body… how does that change the way we live each day?