It’s that special day of the year. No, not Christmas. Nor the one set aside for you to to file your taxes. Nor National Hamburger Day. Today is the day I desperately careen through Psalm 90 trying to console myself over the utter foolishness of being human—otherwise known as Daylight Savings.
I know some of you are able to take this sort of thing in stride. Like facing down the flu, you just get on with life without flailing your arms and railing against God and the government. You have my envy. I wish I could be more like you.
I, on the other hand, who feel generally out of control on most occasions, who am unable to order my thoughts and actions in the way I’m pretty sure God wants me to, prefer to catastrophize.* In other words, I don’t have good enough control over my time on an ordinary day. Take an hour away and I give way to an extraordinary bitterness that someone very far outside of my own sphere has the right and power to mess with something as basic and ubiquitous as the time.
Time is the one thing you are supposed to be able to count on. That’s what you do with it—you count it. The minutes are precise and regular and form up into hours and days and weeks and finally your whole life. You may struggle, desperately, to do things like ‘make the most of it,’ but it goes on nevertheless. You are powerless before its inexorable nature, but you can—literally—count on it to keep going no matter what you think or feel or desire.
Without time where would we be? The very thought is absurd. And yet people like me complain about it all the time—that there isn’t enough of it, that it is going by too quickly or too slowly, that I can’t remember where it is even. I fall prey to the belief that I can trick it, or stretch it out, or even control it. That for me, just this once, it won’t go on as usual and that five minutes will be the same as ten, or better yet, 20. It’s mine, I say to myself. I will organize it because it belongs to me.
In this way I am always feeling the unkindness of time. It ought to be in my grasp, and yet it isn’t. Someone must be at fault. Not me, of course, for refusing to bow to its perfectly ordered beauty. God must be wrong for refusing to suspend its laws for my convenience.
When really, I ought to stop rushing along in bitterness and consider being thankful about the cosmic kindness of God. The fact that time keeps going no matter what is a glorious mercy. We think we’d like to be fixed in time, just for one long breath, but we wouldn’t be allowed to pick which moment that was. If the clocks stopped right now, there would never be any resolution to the incalculable problems that beset me. My back would never stop hurting. I would never find out what happens at the end of the book I’m reading. I would be stuck, anxious for eternity. Whereas, in half an hour when I have to stand up, the stretch will do me good and make the ache go away. By the end of the day, most of the anxieties I’m nursing right now will be resolved. I’ll be back in this very spot, basically relieved, finding out what happens at the end of Shtisel. Time doesn’t change or shift, and neither does God, but because it goes on one minute at a time, I myself am able to be altered. That’s not what I want, though. I want God to change for me, not the other way around.
The request is made to God. And not just by you or me, or Moses by himself facing a grumbling people for longer than he ever thought possible. It is all of us together. We all have this problem. We all need to be taught how to number time, how to see the minutes and hours the way God does. It doesn’t come naturally. God needs to teach us so that we, who are foolish, might become wise.
God likens a day to a thousand years, and a thousand years to a day. His time, just like everything else about him, is completely unlike ours. We stare at the vast measure of his time and find ourselves unable to grasp onto one second of it. We rage against the truth that we ourselves are but a breath in the expanse of his eternal time. We fuss. We are in pain. We are tired and thirsty and hungry. We complain. When the devil wanders by with a juicy peach of a lie, we give way almost without stopping to blink. But God never does. When Jesus steps out into the wildness to have it out with the devil, he doesn’t forget that all time already belongs to God. Forty years or forty days or forty minutes—they were never ours to own or control.
Which ought to be a great comfort. A bureaucrat may take an hour away and then try to give it back later. I may squander my whole day circling in the foolish imaginations of my badly regulated heart. I may give in to every single frustration and disappointment. But the time is not mine. It never was. Nor does it belong to the person doling out hours and then reclaiming them six months later. It belongs to God. It is his. He owns it.
All the time management in the world won’t make you God. The time will slip away for you and you will die, just as Moses did and all people who ever trudge through a wilderness. Therefore, says Moses to God, “establish the work of our hands.” God, who made the time, and who made you, can hold on to all the minutes that slip through your fingers. Everything that matters, including your own life, are saved up and restored by him through the power of his inexorable life. No person can ‘save’ an hour, but God can. His cross is the salvation of every hour.
So anyway, if you manage to wake up, go to church.
*Look, if ‘gifted’ is going to be a verb, so will ‘catastrophize,’ which means, “To fully live into and contribute to the horror and panic of the moment.”