New Year’s Day makes on reflective, at least about the past year, perhaps about life, perhaps, more broadly, about time itself.
Many view time as a curse. Some see it as a curse because of missed chances. As one day or year moves on to the next, all we can see are the missed opportunities of the previous year, missed opportunities that will never come again. If only we’d stuck with that job or stayed in school, if only we’d had the courage to talk to that guy or that girl, if only we’d accepted that scholarship, our lives would be completely different. Our lives would be happy. We wouldn’t have all the frustrations we have now. Everything would be different. Now there’s no way to change it. We look back regretfully at the waste we’ve made of our lives, and know that time has passed us by. Time just keeps marching on, and doesn’t seem to care whether we keep up with it or not. Before we know it, we’re 50 and can’t quite figure out what we’ve accomplished.
For others, time is a curse because the best times always seem to be behind us. The high point of our lives seems to be in the inaccessible past. The aimless days of summer when we were without responsibility or care; the glory days of being in high school, starring on the football team, winning an important game with a touchdown run; college; the early days of living on our own, or the early days of marriage. We know that life will never be as fresh and new as it was then. We know that we’ll never be in a position to do something heroic like we were when we played high school sports. We know that we will never be as cool or famous as we were in high school. For many people, these are the best times of life, and we know that we can never recover those golden moments.
For others, time is a curse because there’s never enough of it. We’ve got dreams but can’t quite find the time to complete them. Deadlines keep rushing toward us like defensive ends, and we need to get the pass in the air before we get crushed. If only we could step out of time for a bit, if only we could find a portal that would take us into another dimension so we could get everything done. But time doesn’t work like that. Time frustrates our dreams and plans.
For others, time is a curse because of the uncertainty it brings. Living in time means living in uncertainty about what the next year, or the next minute, will bring. We don’t have the slightest idea of how things will go. You could step off the curb today, get hit by a car, and live the rest of your life disabled. You could receive a notice in the mail this week that informs you that you have inherited a distant and forgotten relative’s fortune, leaving you with enough to live comfortably for the rest of your life. You don’t know if the next day or the next year will bring surprising successes or surprising failures. You don’t even know if it will bring surprises at all – next year at this time, you may be exactly where you are now. We crave certainty and stability and we want to have some control of life, but time keeps us guessing and uncertain.
There is some truth in all of these. We miss opportunities. We can never recover past years. Time moves along, and we can’t control what’s coming around the bend. But the notion that these experiences make time a curse is wrong. Time is not a curse. Time is not a problem or frustrating restraint. Time is not an obstacle. Time is a gift, a good gift, of God.
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