I cannot believe that it is June. It seems as if Easter was just yesterday and Christmas the day before. Every year, time flies by faster than my ability to capture and hang on to it. I look at photos of my now grown children when then were young and it seemed as if I blinked and they became adults. My oldest granddaughter is now three and a half years old and just finished her first year of preschool… when did that happen? I am fifty-six years old and not sure how quickly I have arrived past the halfway point of my life. I have approximately ten years until retirement and more of my active days of pastoral ministry are behind me. I not only cannot believe that it is June, but I am not sure I can figure out where the years have gone seemingly in such a fleeting manner. To be sure, they have been wonderful years full of blessings and much happiness, and perhaps that is part of the problem. Time flies when you’re having fun is the old adage. Perhaps, I have been having too much fun and time passes quickly when the days of life are filled. Perhaps, the relentless passing of time is a sign of a blessed life.
I have always been fascinated by the concept of time. I remember when I was about sixteen years old or so, reading an article in Smithsonian Magazine about time. We really do not know how to define time. Einstein demonstrated that time is not a constant. If we could travel fast enough, the passage of time would slow down for those moving so quickly. Theologians have wrestled with understanding the concept of time– the fifth century bishop and theologian, Augustine wrote on it and twentieth-century New Testament scholar, Oscar Cullmann made an attempt to understand it in relation to eternity. Whatever time is, we human beings are in it and we are apparently bound to it. God transcends time, it seems, but it’s hard to know how to understand that since we only know God in time. What we seem to notice is not the movement of time (how does one notice that?), but the changes that take place over time in our lives– the graying of the hair, the growing of our children, the arrival of grandchildren, the election of presidents, holidays celebrated… and then the next one a year later without someone who is no longer there “in time” to join the festivities.
I do not know what time is, but I know this– I experience time as a relentless movement toward the future in which I fragilely attempt to savor a few precious moments; and in the midst of that relentless movement, the God who transcends time has chosen to enter our time for no other reason than in his love for us. In so doing, God has chosen to limit himself so that he can enjoy all the benefits of what it is like to be in relationship with his creation bound in time; so that he can rejoice in the wonderful surprises of our lives and so that he can also surround us in our unexpected sorrows. My reading and study of the Bible over the years has convinced me that our relational God has chosen to be in genuine relationship with us, and that means nothing less than God’s self-limiting in order for that relationship to be genuine in the passing of time. How it is that the eternal God gets into the mix of time and space is something I cannot begin to imagine nor explain; but the biblical writers were clear that is what God has done.
And why should that thought surprise Christians? We believe that the supreme and ultimate divine invasion into our time and space has happened in Jesus Christ. To affirm that God has entered into time and space in a way that God may even willfully limit portions of God’s knowledge is not a denial of the sovereignty of God; rather it highlights the sovereignty of our Lord who is in control and in charge, even though that same God chooses the limitations of time and space in order to be with us. St. Augustine writes, “God loves each and every one of us as if we are the only one to love.” God cannot love us in this way without being right next to us in this time and in this space. We may not know what time is, but we need not fear it; for in all the times of our lives, God is with us. God is truly with us. The psalmist writes,
The days of our life are seventy years,
or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands—
O prosper the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:10, 12, 16-17)
So, from this day on to the end of my life, I will no longer marvel at how quickly time passes. Instead, I will wonder in amazement that God has chosen to share these handful of decades of time with me giving me the gift of this time and of his presence– and called me according to his divine purpose.
In the fullness of time, God sent his Son (Galatians 4:4) so that we might experience God’s fullness in all the moments of our time.