My brother has a clock on his wall that I have always appreciated. All the numbers have toppled down into a jumbled pile at the bottom. Across the face in large letters it says simply, “WHATEVER.”
If you have been at St. Michael’s for any length of time, you are probably aware that your Rector is . . . punctually challenged. I have prayed about it. Confessed it. Sought counsel for it. All of which made me late for my next meeting. Time and I have a begrudging relationship.
Time is mysterious. You’re having fun – it speeds up. You’re not having fun – it slows down. Time is unforgiving. I am pretty sure time is responsible for the changing shade of my beard. We can’t stop time or reverse it. We can only organize our lives around it.
Time is helpful when cooking, that’s true, and it’s good for power plays in hockey. That’s about it. Mostly it just rolls along oblivious to our thoughts and feelings, our wants and needs. Upon reflection , time is actually a cold and uncaring character.
In my post-college soul-searching days, C.S. Lewis inspired my thinking that time isn’t all that helpful in the spiritual life. In the dialectic classic, Screwtape Letters, the demon uncle writes to his nephew apprentice:
The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things: to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.
In other words, the past and the future don’t actually exist. The only point in time that anything ever happens . . . is right now. If we’re lamenting the past or pondering the future, we are not in the Present. The compulsory thing about the Present is that it is the only place we can meet God.
For all that has happened in the past and all that may be in the future, none of it holds any bearing on our spiritual life. Our relationship with Almighty God unfolds only in the Present, where “time touches eternity.” His presence is in the Present.
God loves us so much! He wants to be in living relationship with us always. But He can only dwell with us if we give our Present to Him.
This article was written by Fr. Doran Stambaugh and published in the 2016 Winter Messenger.