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.

Hard Lessons

We’ve had a good week. It’s definitely been busy; but at least it’s been a good-busy. It’s weird, though, because sometimes I feel guilty for having a good week when I realize there’s much suffering in other areas of our country. Granted, we’ve encountered our tough challenges as well the past few months with health issues and a pretty significant set-back in the parenting arena. But this last week was a good one.

What I’m learning, and you’d think I’d have this figured out by now, is that attitude and Perceptionperception play a lot of importance in having a good week. I have typically paid more attention to what I think someone else’s perceptions are rather than more carefully examining my own.

For instance, I recognized that challenges I encountered earlier in the year seemed more serious than they really were. So, I asked myself, why? Sadly, I discovered it was because I was perceiving these challenges as a personal attack or some intentional disparagement foisted in my direction.

In discussing this with my Bride she gently recalled the attitude of the older brother in the Prodigal Son parable. He was all bent out of shape because his world revolved around himself. His sphere of perception was barely beyond his own ego. Now I don’t think I was this far gone, but I was not properly examining the motives of others around me; I was, instead, being more protective and self-concerned and therefore misunderstanding other people’s words and actions. Neither my life nor employment were being challenged, no crimes were being committed, I was just uncomfortable with some of the challenges and expectations confronting me and a little jealous of someone else’s situation.

Shameful, I know. God has really blessed me. Yes, I struggle with health issues, but each one can be dealt with and even though my activity levels have been adjusted, I’m still as active as I want to be; I just need to do my activities differently than I used to.

So what am I learning? Well, to have a realistic view of my own perceptions. Oddly, I don’t think this leads to being self-centered, I think it actually leads away from it; that is, if I’m honest. Under the scrutiny of brutal honesty, I am better able to detect where my perception is skewed toward self-centeredness or self-protectionism.

ThankfulAnother key feature I’m learning more about is thankfulness. Scripture encourages us to be thankful. Philippians 4:6-7 encourage us to bring our concerns to God in prayer but to do so with a thankful heart. We’re thankful because the God of the universe cares enough for us to listen and respond to our cares. He may not change circumstances, but He can deepen or sense of peace and joy while also enlightening our wisdom (James 1:5).

Another lesson is being more intentional about keeping Jesus the focus of my life. We are to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, not on ourselves (Hebrews 12:2).

So, the next time I’m feeling stressed or somehow minimized, I need to stop and examine first what’s going on between my ears. Is my mental state appropriate? Is my perception of what’s going on what’s really going on—or am I fabricating a false perception because I’ve moved back into being the center of my universe? I’ll be able to more successfully navigate through this life once my mental state is on the right course and my perception is based on reality and not on fabrication.