A Discussion of Time

Time“Does anybody really know what time it is?” asked the rock band Chicago back in 1969 (from their debut album Chicago Transit Authority). I am also asking the question because invariably, my perception of time is drastically different on the weekends than it is during the work week. C. S. Lewis said of time that, “Humans live in time … therefore … attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself and to … the Present” (The Screwtape Letters, pp. 67-68). Maybe my perception changes because my “present” changes.

Still, usually, time doesn’t really seem to be my friend. When I have plenty of it, I lose track of it; like on Sunday mornings when I’m always late for church (thusly, my entire family is late as well). When I don’t have enough time, I become task and outcome-oriented, more focused on accomplishments than relationships.

Barry Parker, in his biography on Albert Einstein, wrote, “If you asked several people what exactly is time, you would no doubt get a different answer from each of them. And the truth is: nobody really knows. It’s easy enough to point to your watch and say, ‘It’s what that thing is measuring.’ But does that really tell us anything? No, it doesn’t, and even if you quizzed scientists, they would admit that they don’t understand time any better than anyone else” (Albert Einstein’s Vision: Remarkable discoveries that shaped modern science, pp. 101-102).

Time seems both easily discernible and mysteriously elusive. Scripture says that “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Genesis states that, “God called the light Day and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day” (1:5). Interestingly, the concept of day and night is defined early in the creation account, even though the sun and moon don’t come onto the scene until verse 16. This also clearly indicates that God is not bound at all by time. In fact, as I stated a few blogs ago, He created it.

But it is in this context that we define time. That is, we define time based on divisions of what we call a “day.” A typical day is 24 hours and we divide that 24 hours up into 1-hour increments. So much of our lives are based within this framework of 24 hours, of which around eight of those hours are spent in or around sleeping. And we can get even more technical and explore how sunlight affects our differentiating of time.

But really, is life based off of minutes and hours or is it based more off of experiences and outcomes? For instance, our accepting of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior occurs in a segment of time; but is the segment what’s important or is what happened in that segment important? I know that’s a rhetorical question, but it sort of gets at the heart of things. A project is due to be completed by x-date; but why and who said it? Is the date based on some other set of issues or on an arbitrary selection in the attempt to get things started? Do people lose their lives if deadline is missed? Or, more likely, will a new deadline be established?

Bottom line is, we live in a structured environment that is highly regulated by our perception and application of time. But isn’t it interesting that many cultures around the world are not as bound by time as we are? Did Jesus wear a watch? Did the Apostles have deadlines and quotas to fill by certain times? Well, no, they didn’t. But we sure do.

Now please don’t get me wrong, we have bosses that tell us when to be at work and when we can go home. We have discipleship groups, youth groups, and church gatherings that all start at certain times, and we invite our dinner guests to show up at specified times. So, yes, time and time-setting are important; they keep us organized and they assist in setting and meeting expectations. But somehow, we need to have more unstructured “times” in our lives when we can just be rather than do. That’s why my perception of time changes on the weekends; I am shifting from a doing-orientation to a being-orientation.

I hope that makes sense. Now it’s time to make dinner.

Flighty Art, Sidewalk Chalk, and Loving Your Neighbor

Hummingbird

Hummingbird at Feeder, photo credit, Caleb.

Hummingbirds fascinate me. They’re so small and yet their wings beat so fast, approximately 80 times per second! I am unceasingly amazed by the rapid thrumming of their wings as they fly past or hover nearby. Leaves will flap back and forth from the downdraft and the little hummers can even fly up, down and backward! And their colors are wild iridescent greens, blues and reds to oranges and even whites.

Hummingbirds are wonderfully crafted pieces of art with wings and large appetites. They are an intentional part of God’s creation (see Genesis 1:20). I can’t fathom that they are any kind of an accident; it’s hard to believe that cosmic accidents would produce such delicate and amazing beauty. And a strictly utilitarian God would, in my imagination anyway, favor drab functionality over exquisite, shimmering beauty. They certainly serve a functionality in God’s over all ecology, but they are unquestionably beautiful as well. I think that’s because God is both/and: He’s both functional and artful. God is the Creator after all, and if we spend time looking at nature, or at telescopic images of space or microscopic images of the molecular world, we’ll recognize that God is indeed artful in incredibly complex and miraculous ways.

Chalk art

Caleb Chalk-art

This brings me to chalk art, even if it’s a Matchbox car highway scraped onto our driveway. Such art exhibits the creative imaginations of children; but they also exhibit our God-given innateness to create beauty ourselves. Art and artists abound. We have flowers, trees, mountains, galaxies, and all kinds of creatures, even ones inhabiting the deepest, darkest depths of our oceans. We also have sculptors, painters, musicians, writers, actors and more; working in all sorts of mediums from oils, to acrylics, to metal, to glass, clay, ceramic, and unlimited bits of tactile art. Yes, art can be used to cast ugly images and ugly aspects of humanity, not unlike some of the hostile artifacts we find in nature such as poisonous bugs, killer weather, and even sunburns. But by and large, most art is in one way or another, beautiful.

So the next time you’re out for a neighborhood stroll and come across a young child creating their art with chalk on the sidewalk, stop and admire it. Let them know you appreciate it and quite possibly fan the flame of a future artist. Doing this you will show love for your neighbor by encouraging the heart of a child. You will also be acknowledging the gift from a wonderfully creative God working in the hearts of the very youngest among us.