Out of the grip of time
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
A few years ago, when a couple of my kids were in middle school and testing the extent of their musical skills - one was taking clarinet and the other trombone - I attended the school's spring concert. It was a combined event for the beginning band, the beginning orchestra, the beginning choir, and a few other smaller groups of middle-school student musicians. If there was a future Yo-Yo Ma in the bunch, I didn't spot him (or her). I recall looking down at the program at one point and seeing we were on the eighth piece of the night, and we had something like 29 to go. I felt for a moment that I was getting a new view of eternity.
Beyond taking its place in the stockpile of family memories, the evening represented, for me, something additional. A small turning point in my perception of time. Two hours at the middle school concert didn't feel at all like two hours at a Rolling Stones concert, where time zoomed by with lightning speed. Was there more I could do to set the pace and control the productivity of my life? Were circumstances always going to dominate?
Right at the start, the Bible underscores that God gives us dominion over all things. Usually that's taken to mean dominion over fish and birds and so on, objects we see or touch. But I've been learning something: God- bestowed dominion extends to time. And I've come to a conclusion. Nobody else can squander our time unless we concede to them the power to do so - something we'd only do if we'd abandoned our God-given dominion. So, that's something I'm working on - claiming dominion, not conceding to anyone or anything the power to waste my time.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote a brief article called "Improve your time," which begins, "Success in life depends upon persistent effort, upon the improvement of moments more than upon any other one thing" ("Miscellaneous Writings, 1883-1896," pg. 230). A couple of paragraphs later, she returns to the idea of "improving moments." It's not really a need to open up in our lives a large block of time that we didn't think was there. It's more a case of letting spiritual dominion shape the moment-by-moment use of our days. Then we do accomplish more, not because we've become efficiency experts, but because God, divine Life, is in control and we have the self-control and the dominion to realize that and to prove it, at least to some degree.
Whether an overpacked agenda is crowding us or a wasteland of emptiness and boredom is haunting us, we're faced with an opportunity. It's to utilize the dominion from God. He timelessly cares for us, helps us meet the challenges of our days, and preserves within us the spiritual authority we need in which to do so.
The Bible says that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (II Pet. 3:8). What a wonderful fact! As we get, through prayer, a more vivid feeling of being with the Lord, being at one with the dominion of divine Life, we'll have more of those days where the level of accomplishment goes way up and the level of waste drops.
Maybe we won't get a thousand years' worth of tasks done. But at least we'll achieve far more than we might have expected. And, not surprisingly, we'll also feel greater fulfillment and find greater contentment. Even while we're idling away the evening at the kids' spring concert, which is, after all, a lovely way to show our support and express our love. Even when we secretly suspect that within a year or two, the clarinet and trombone will be collecting dust in the back of the closet.
I've begun to see I don't need to personally control events, don't need to write the agenda for every meeting I attend, don't need to line up for myself only activities that I find worthwhile. I do need to glimpse that being with the Lord, being conscious of divine Life's presence, is also being present with the dominion He bestows. And true dominion is something we can each realize a bit more vividly, take to heart a bit more earnestly, and demonstrate at least a degree more fully. Then time - either what seems like too much of it or too little of it - will cease to dominate our lives.