I was listening to a lecture by Peter Kreeft a while back, and he observed that time is the stuff of which life is made – time is life. People often say that time is money, but that’s an understatement. Kreeft is right: time is life.
This isn’t meant to suggest that time is a metaphysical necessity, or that there can be no such thing as eternal life. Rather, it means that the life we each possess – our life – is ultimately a very precise allotment of time, and that each sunrise brings us one day closer to death. Time is really all we have, and the whole content of our lives is an answer to the question: What did you do with your time?
Life is a timed test, where you don’t know how long the time is.
Like any test, it’s not enough to answer the questions; you have to somehow come up with the right answers. The right use of time is not just about avoiding procrastination, as important as that is. It’s about prudence, in all its aspects. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have found myself, in life, paddling furiously downstream to nowhere (sometimes quite effectively), just to realize that I’d only distanced myself all the more from the source I sought – and still seek. Time, in a sense, down the drain.
From my youth, I have been especially intrigued by the notions of time, of hope, and of reality. These three ideas have dominated my mental life in many respects. Perhaps I will find the opportunity to explore the relationships between them within these pages before too long, but Kreeft’s observation jolted me to the realization that the hope which lives in me – for all the lip service I may give it – has been subject to a rather systematic marginalization for much of my life, in deference to a kind of practical expediency – and even a heart attack at age 46 didn’t manage to seriously shake it free.
Hope is absolutely essential to sanity for anyone who seeks the truth, for anyone with a hunger to embrace reality, because reality has two very distinct faces. Reality is God, which we consider Beatitude, but reality is also the mess we live in – as well as God’s judgment on that mess. Hope is the reaching from brokenness to promise that climbs the ladder of reality, if you will. And it is hope that allows us to break free from captivity to anxiety and fear, to embrace – and realize – the promise of beatitude in our life.
The great Christian hope is in the return of Jesus Christ to earth, both to judge it, and to fully manifest the new creation. That return may happen today, or it may happen some day long from now – but we are not truly Christian if we do not expect that day, and indeed “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” And yet, for each of us, we live our own allotment of time – and we know not what time is ours, but our time, too, may come today, and there’s no good reason we should be any less joyfully expectant of the advent of our own end time.
I haven’t met a lot of people that embrace such a joyful readiness for death. In truth, most of us just don’t feel ready for it, and – speaking for myself – I know that’s because I have not lived my life – that is, I have not spent my time – prudently enough. It seems to me that there is only one right time to start changing that: today.
I was beginning yet another long commute home in a miserable winter rain storm one night last year, when the thought came to me that I needed to make a decision on exactly what to do about a rather complicated computer-related situation I had waiting for me at home – which included choosing a domain name for a web site I was planning. My initial reaction was to say “Maybe tomorrow,” but – with Peter Kreeft’s wisdom in the back of my mind – I immediately thought better of that, and said: “No, maybe today.”
There’s really no better time to get on with life – reaching for the promise – and it’s entirely possible that there will be no other time at all. Maranatha!