Every morning for the past few days as I have sat in my living room reading my devotions and spending some time in prayer, I have noticed a narrow ray of sunlight from the kitchen window that cuts across the floor. It distracts me again each day as I watch it grow, slowly spreading open in front of me and turning the wood floor from brown to gold in an ever-enlarging V.
I sit transfixed and watch this most literal definition of the passing of time, the slow and steady movement of the sun, usually imperceptible to a human like me who is always on the go, but for a few moments leaping off the floor in front of my eyes until the V becomes too wide and time again marches on, steady and undetected as always.
It’s easy to forget about time, to take for granted the constant movement of the sun that we can’t perceive with our eyes, the constant turn of the earth that we cannot feel. It’s easy to forget that we are always moving through the fourth dimension even when we lie still in our beds at night.
But perhaps some of us are more sensitive to time’s constant progress than others. Even though I can’t perceive it with my senses, I have always been painfully aware of the passing of time. When I was a little kid, the monsters under my bed never kept me awake at night, but the perception of growing up was something that could keep my heart racing for hours after I was supposed to be asleep.
I wasn’t scared of getting older; I was scared of what would be lost to me in the process. It wasn’t a frequent fear, but after birthdays and at the end of summer breaks I was aware that I had lost something that I couldn’t get back, that I was powerless to do anything but drift along in time’s stream. Time refused to stand still, no matter how badly I wanted to stay in the tree in my backyard and pretend I was on a pirate ship.
Since it won’t stand still, time’s passage impresses on me the need to make each minute count. I feel the need to do something important and do it now, neutralized by an awareness that I don’t know what to do. So instead I sit and do nothing and fret because nothing is getting done.
Perhaps this awareness of time is why I started writing a blog post every year as I turned another year older. At 25, my attitude was “Holy cow, I’m 25! An entire quarter-of-a-century old! I need to accomplish something now before it’s too late.” Ah, Silly me.
At 26, I felt more pressure. At 26 I didn’t feel the panicked need to accomplish things. I felt fear that I would accomplish nothing, because 26 had always been the imaginary benchmark in my mind of when I would have it all together. My parents were married at 26, but I was a grad student without a job or a girlfriend. At 26 I watched the imaginary benchmark of accomplishment come and go. And as I turn 27, I certainly don’t feel like I have it all together.
As I write this, I’m hoping I sound as ridiculous to you as I sound to myself. I have really strange fears and thoughts sometimes, but I also know that I’m not as different from everybody else as I like to believe, and that you probably worry about where your life is going too. My ridiculousness is my gift to you.
Now I have reached 27, and I am trying to make peace with time, to embrace its unstoppable advance rather than letting it frighten me.
What does this mean? It means that I no longer care to accomplish something. Not right now, anyways. Instead, I want to be something. What I am remains the same regardless of time and regardless of accomplishments. I am first and foremost a being with the promise of eternity, and as such the passage of time does not really affect me (nor you).
It means I can sit in my living room and watch time pass across my floor while I do nothing but worship the God who created time itself. It means that sometimes sitting still and waiting on God is the best possible thing I can do with the time I have been given. It means that I will make the most of my time on earth by not rushing to do, but by pausing to be.
It means I can let moments go by and not feel bad about it. Who knows, I may even kick back and take a nap now and then. (Then again, probably not. I still hate naps like a six-year-old.)
It means I can relax and let the Holy Spirit re-make me in Christ’s image. I want God to do a work of art in me. Works of art are not done overnight. Maybe it will take one year, or maybe it will take thirty, but someday I will be who I need to be to do what I was made to do.
Until then, I will continue to watch the sun and worship the Artist.