It is the most common noun used in the English language. And yet, arguably, time may be the most misunderstood word known to humanity. We might define the term as a sequence of events that are irreversible, but that sounds so unromantic. And time is romantic.
Time is a commodity as well; but, again, that doesn’t satisfy except to say that there is an ever-increasing scarcity of it for those who live within its dimension. So, time is precious.
But time is both a taker and a giver. We exchange past moments for current and current ones for the future. It is a zero-sum game. Well, almost. What it takes is often much more than it gives. Physically time makes us old to the point of death where, possibly, our time ends altogether. Here time is more like a race than a pendulum swinging back and forth. Or a march to a treacherous cliff.
Because time has at its core a component of tragedy, the noble heart and warrior is heralded for the ultimate sacrifice of it. Head-long into battle, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” These stories live on in our collective memory and therefore time cannot reach them. Here time stands still, solemn, and forever.
If time is to be exchanged for something, it seems self-evident it should be spent well—on the things that remain after its expense. The passing on of core values, the sense of duty and country, the nobility to stand for those who are weak. These make time a mere spectator and not a tyrant.
And so, while time will change the image in the mirror, it cannot change that which does not acquiesce to change. “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” Therefore, time taunts, it teases, it tests, but it cannot transform beyond its own capabilities. Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption appropriately put it this way, “Forget that… there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.” This is time’s limitation, too—it can only reach so far.
In this season of thanksgiving and celebrations, spend just a few moments of your precious time showing gratitude and joy for the things time cannot make us forget.
Kent Simmons is the pastor of Canyon Community Church in Kingman, AZ.