Psalm 90:4 ÒFor a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.Ó
Yesterday, as I was trying to drag Ruckus around our walking loop more quickly than he wanted to go, I started to focus on how much stress is caused by the presence of time. God is outside of time, as Psalm 90 reminds us, but those of us living on earth are fully within it and it makes for a lot of stress. Every minute I stood on the road while Ruckus sniffed each leaf on a bush was a minute I couldnÕt be working on the book or my other work. Of course a break from work is good, even called for in the Ten Commandments by the Sabbath commandment, but it wasnÕt really the work that was pressing me. It was the deadlines for the work. It was the pressure of time.
As I thought about it, every single stressor in my life at the moment is related to time. Can I get the book finished by Sept. 1? Will I be able to visit my mother in the new facility, which is three hours away, with any frequency? How much longer must she endure this terrible disease? Can I pull together all the plans to celebrate the Bible SocietyÕs 200th anniversary in time? With all the increased costs in food and energy, will I have enough put aside by September to pay my quarterly taxes? The list goes on and on.
And yet, as much as time causes enormous stress, it is also a gift. I think of the passage in Psalm 30:5 which says, ÒWeeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.Ó When we are going through a time of trial, it helps to know there will be an end. How often have we heard or said ourselves, ÒTime heals all wounds.Ó IÕm not sure thatÕs totally the case, but there is some truth in it. There will be an end to my motherÕs suffering at some point. There will be a day when my book is finished (please, God, let it be Aug. 31) and so forth. With the passing of time the raw pain of today gives way to days where we can enjoy at least parts of our lives again, even though certain things might aggravate an old wound.
And of course there is the ultimate mystery associated with time, death. For many it is the ultimate stressor. We do anything to stay young, or at least to appear so. The end of our time on earth terrifies so many that images of zombies and skeletons, ghosts and graveyards are the stuff of horror movies and haunted house thrills. If we stopped fearing death it would be a terrible blow to the economy. And yet so often IÕve seen death come as a gentle friend rather than the grim reaper. Death brings the end of pain in all its forms and is more frequently welcomed than we might realize.
On top of all of that sits the Christian notion of eternal life—the life with God that is outside of time. The closest we can get to thinking about that seems to be imagining time that goes on forever, but thatÕs not particularly appealing to me. What does appeal to me is thinking that somehow we can be free of time altogether with all the pressures and the ultimate death it imposes. The surprising thing about the Christian witness, however, is that we donÕt really believe in life after death. We believe that eternal life, the life outside of time, begins now, in this temporal life—that when we wake up to the fact that we are spiritual beings, we sort of jump from the temporal line of this earthly life to a parallel line for which time has no ultimate meaning. A line where there is no death or other deadline because it is a life with God.
I think thatÕs all that Jesus meant when he told Nicodemus in John 3 that he had to be Òborn again.Ó He didnÕt mean Nicodemus had to accept a set of doctrines and intellectual propositions. He meant he needed to recognize that there was another plane of existence—a spiritual one—where death has no meaning because time has no influence. It is eternal. ThatÕs where the kingdom of God reigns, and we can choose to be part of it or not—to be born again into that life or not. I have a deep suspicion that when the Buddha found enlightenment, thatÕs what he discovered.
The real battle in my own life is trying to keep my balance on the kingdom line while stifling the cries for attention from the temporal line—to sell all I have and buy the field where that pearl of great price is buried. If I could do that, I would still pay attention to deadlines and the things the keep life on earth moving, but I would be less likely to stress about them. I could view my own mortality without deep angst and realize that meeting the book deadline enhances my relationship with my publisher but has no bearing on my life with God or my ultimate worth. And Ruckus could smell all the bushes he wants.
Forgive me, God, when I replace your kingdom with the kingdom of time. Amen.
If youÕre on Facebook, be sure to send me a friend request and download the Neverending Bible Quiz application. ThereÕs also a group for the Massachusetts Bible Society and playing the quiz will help MBS!
The new Massachusetts Bible Society website is now live. Visit us at www.massbible.org and click on a building to enter the site. Enjoy!
SpiritWalkers is available in audio as a podcast. Visit www.annerobertson.com/poddevotions.html to subscribe or to listen online.
Be sure to check out my books: Blowing the Lid Off the God-Box and GodÕs Top 10: Blowing the Lid Off the Commandments. Order now on Amazon.com or check local bookstores.