Sometimes we all feel painted into a corner by time constraints. Maybe we have too much to do in too little time. Or face an impending deadline. Or fly halfway around the world - as a friend and I did recently - and find we've lost out on a whole day.
Actually, though, these experiences can be productive. They can teach us to deal more effectively with time pressure. They can show us our own capacities - for example, to do a task in half the time it usually takes. But beyond that, these circumstances can force us to redeem the whole conventional concept of time. They can push us to discover a kind of time that transcends the 24-hour-day paradigm. They can inspire us to measure the events of our life in a more spiritual way. And ultimately, in God's way.
A couple of years ago, on a plane trip from Boston to Tokyo, a flight attendant heard me calculating what time it would be when we arrived - and how much sleep we'd lose on the way.
"Forget about the time!" she said. "I learned a long time ago that you talk yourself into feeling exhausted when you count hours. Just live in the NOW when you arrive in Tokyo - and you'll be fine."
Living in the now - without fretting about the past, the future - is what little children do. And it's what the Bible recommends that all of us do. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation," St. Paul wrote (II Cor. 6:2).
The fact is, God's time is a forever now. Because, as Jesus said, God's "kingdom" is "come" (Matt. 6:10). His absolute control is for real - in every place, person, and time - eternally. Yet God's time is utterly beyond the time that's measured by finite seconds, minutes, hours, days, years. It's Spirit-based. And it's totally good because that's the way God is. The composer Johann Sebastian Bach believed this intuitively - and named one of his most glorious compositions "God's time is best."
Seeing finite time pressures as not having the last word accelerates the demise of those pressures. It exposes their speciousness in the face of eternal NOW-time. "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, explains how this happens: "The objects of time and sense disappear in the illumination of spiritual understanding, and Mind measures time according to the good that is unfolded" (pg. 584).
A young woman named Shelby learned to measure time this way in an urgent situation. Her baby was 10 days overdue. The obstetrician was so concerned about Shelby's health, and the baby's, that he gave her an ultimatum. If labor didn't begin naturally by 7 o'clock the next morning, she was to report to the hospital to have the delivery induced medically. This procedure, she was told, would present new challenges for her - possibly a Caesarean delivery.
"This is pressure!" Shelby told her mom as they discussed this. "I've got one day to have this baby."
But then they asked themselves some key questions: Who really created this baby? Wasn't it God, the Father and Mother of the universe? And isn't this child actually made in the likeness of its divine Parent, spiritual and right in every way? Most important, isn't this baby an eternal being, like its creator, without beginning and without end? Isn't it an idea above and beyond a crunching deadline rooted in mortal time?
For Shelby and her mom, asking and answering these questions was a form of prayer. And it pointed them directly to God - and His noble, already-complete creation. It took all the pressure off. Shelby felt confident that God - and God alone - would reveal His creation to her. In His own way.
And that's what happened. In the wee hours of the next morning, she told her husband it was time to go to the hospital. And at 5:28 a.m., their daughter arrived according to God's time - an hour and 32 minutes before the 7 a.m. deadline!
Yes, Bach had it right. God's time is best.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society