Time after Time


Time is funny.

Einstein told us time was relative, that it depended on fixed points, speeds, and movements for time to have any sort of meaning. I have certainly felt its relativity these days. Life is on the move. I’m in transition. A few days here, a few weeks there, Christmas back with family, and then Africa. Until I move into my house in Uganda, I won’t be in any one place long enough to collect dust.

That move still doesn’t quite feel real to me. I am excited for it. I’m praying about it. I’m trying to learn and prepare as much as I can before I go. But I’m in limbo. I’m not settled in Africa yet, but I already feel out of place in Oklahoma. And the time…

Time doesn’t come for me in seconds, minutes, days, or weeks anymore. It seems to move very differently, in different intervals. The units of measurement for time aren’t hollow seconds, but meaningful rhythms and patterns. How long has it been since I saw North Carolina friends? Well, as long as those daisies sitting in my vase have lasted. How long until I move? Only so many more hugs from Dad, or heart-to-hearts with Jacob, or episodes of a favorite TV show with Mom. How many hours have I driven to see friends and family? That’s measured in the number of audio books I’ve listened through. How long until I leave for training? That’s counted in how many churches I’ve gotten to visit and share with.

Time has a way of telescoping for me recently—of stretching out and shrinking up in the most unreliable ways. The few short minutes it takes to drink in exactly the way the mist hangs over damp Oklahoma oaks in a purple dusk will stretch to years in my memory until time brings me back to Oklahoma and gives me the chance to see it again. Time totally stops when I pull up the car just to take in the exact way the bronzy Oklahoma twilight reflects in still puddles across a gravel backroad. And yet whole days vanish as I try to pack and sort and check off items on a very long to-do list.

Time right now feels less like a certain quantity of days until I move and more like a certain number of brilliant starry nights with a fresh Fall wind and the Milky way overhead, a certain number of those signature Oklahoma sunsets that stretch and stretch over the fields for miles just until they break and the fiery sky snaps into dusk, a certain number of last hugs with friends, last tears at parting, last goodbyes.

And all the time, Africa is calling.

As I pack up my life here and bring things to conclusion before I leave, I find my mind increasingly often faced towards Africa, contemplating the new life there, the new favorite sights, sounds, faces, hugs. Between all my lasts and my unreliable measurements of time, Africa looms larger and larger, rushing the days past me, but stretching them out with tasks of conclusion and preparation.

Paul wrote to his Ephesian brothers and sisters, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil.”

There’s quite a bit in that to calm and comfort me during this transition. If I face these days wisely, counting them in whatever ways I can, making the best use of my times however short or long, I will walk as a child of the Light, in goodness and truth, and I will please my Lord. That’s what Paul says in Ephesians 5. And he says that the days can be evil—can rush on by without anyone the better off for them unless…

Unless I redeem my time, soak in all the rest, the preparation, the fellowship, the experiences of the Lord’s faithfulness.

Moses was somewhat of an authority on time himself, having lived through a lot more of it than we will, and experiencing quite a few transitions himself. In psalm 90 he muses on what he had learned. Our days can be like grasses, he says, fresh in the morning and withered by evening. “We bring our years to an end like a sigh,” he says.

Wow. What a picture. How many of my days end like a sigh? That sounds like such a tragedy in light of the joy we can have in our Lord and the pleasure we can have in the days he has given us. “So,” Moses says, “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom… Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

If we want to redeem our time, we must count our days, make them count, fill them with joy in the Lord’s presence, squeezing all the good we can out of our days instead of letting them rush on and end like a sigh. That, Paul and Moses say, is a wise way to live.

So as these crazy days come to a close, as my transition comes nearer, I hope you will find me, dear friends, counting my days, redeeming my time, and making the best use of them. With the Lord and his wisdom, my days may be full and joyful, not a bit wasted or sighed away.