Where does the time go? ~Putting the Past and the Future into Perspective

"Where does the time go?" An old friend and I were reminiscing not long ago, talking about old times — the places we had been and the things we had done together in days long gone. His was a rhetorical question - one that I have asked and heard others ask innumerable times. It is a question as old as the presence of old-timers and as current as a fond memory.

I look at my daughters, all grown, professional, married women and remember the days of dolls, diapers, and baby's dinner-in-a-glass-jar and wonder where the time went.

My grandson. Somewhere I have a photo of me holding him. He was a slobber-bucket and there was a bucket of slobber drenching the little shirt that he wore and creating a significant wet spot on my own shirt. Now, he is a few months shy of being a teen.

Where does the time go?

Yesterday, I was the 30-something pastor of a vibrant east Texas church, doing life with some of the best people - and friends - I have been privileged to know. But that Yesterday is now 20 years ago. Twenty years since I ascended the platform and proclaimed the Word to those hungry hearts. Twenty years since I buried their dead and married their young.

Where does the time go?

Day before yesterday, I was a rail-thin, 145-pound-soaking-wet, wet-behind-the-ears kid not out of my teens, feeling overwhelmed in my tuxedo and beside myself with anticipation of a life I could not wait to live. I was in a dream, breathlessly watching a knock-dead brunette beauty, filling out a wedding gown the way Mozart filled a music sheet with timeless wonder, elegantly stride towards me, to sweep me off of my feet, to sweep me into a life filled with joy and sorrow, beauty and pain, health and sickness...and life. How full of life this life we have made together has been.

That wedding day was 37 years ago.

Where does the time go?

A week or so ago, my uncle Troy and I were as dirty as hobos, with our greasy hands, battery acid-splashed Polyester pants, sweat-soaked shirts, loading a couple hundred or so junk batteries onto Dad's Chevy truck - the one with the custom-designed bed and heavy-load-bearing suspension. I was probably 12 and Troy was about 15. Our compatriots were in school, but we got the day off once each month to work in Dad's auto repair shop, loading Old Yeller (Dad's nickname for the truck) with the cast-off batteries, prepping for the monthly trip to the lead smelter in Dallas. We got donuts for breakfast and Jack-in-the-Box for lunch and so what if we were grease-monkeys? We were spending a weekday breaking child labor laws (if there were any). But we didn't give a fiddler's fart. We were not in school and that was cool.

That was 43 years ago.

Where does the time go?

When I ask this question today, I do not mean it in that wistful, rhetorical sense. Well, not entirely. I mean it in a more ethereal or philosophical sense. Let me explain...

Time Travels or does it?

When someone leaves on a trip or is visiting and then returns to their own home, we say that they are "gone." We may say the same thing about lost keys or an airplane fading into the distant sky. We understand that they are not really gone. They are somewhere. Just not right here right now. Even water that evaporates is not gone; it has just changed forms.

But what about time? Is yesterday really "gone" forever? Is it no more? Obviously, mankind has flirted with the notion - or at least fantasized - that time is perpetual. Thus, we have books, movies, and television shows that deal with the idea of time travel. We imagine how much the world might be affected if we could go back in time and do something different or go forward and give our future selves a heads up. The 1980s movie Peggy Sue Got Married imagines a woman attending her 25th high school reunion after learning her husband had cheated on her. She faints and wakes up in the 60's. She changes things, but the outcome is not as expected. 11/22/63 is a time-travel novel by Stephen King where a man goes back to that fateful day and prevents the assassination of John F. Kennedy. When he returns to his present day, he finds a nation in ruins. In Back to the Future a teen named Marty McFly goes back in time to when his parents were teens and nearly makes a complete hash of everything.

Do we imagine the possibility of time travel because of our natural curiosity, our penchant for sentimentality, or do the moments past and yet to come perpetually exist somewhere, somehow, pulling at our souls?

Did Jesus have time-travelin' Shoes?

Christians struggle with the relationship of time to eternity. One of God's favorite names for Himself in the Old Testament was I am. This is the answer he gave Moses when the bewildered man asked whom he should tell the enslaved Israelites had sent him.

God told Moses, "Tell them I Am has sent you."

Move to the New Testament and Jesus curiously says, "Before Abraham was, I AM."

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your[a] God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” ~John 8:48-59

Jesus declared Himself, in essence, a Time Traveler. He, of course, taught that He was one with the Father and was eternal. We explain this through the doctrine of the Trinity.

Other Scriptures suggest, however, that God, the Eternal One, is always in a present condition. With Him there is no time - no past and no future. He knows the end from the beginning and sees each of them more clearly than I see this keyboard as I struggle to hammer out the words that will make sense of the thoughts in my head.

Eternity is NOT a long time.

You hear people say it quite frequently: "Forever is a long time."

The fact is eternity is not a long time. It is not time at all. Many understand time as a line segment. it has a starting point and an ending point. Eternity is that same line, but it extends indefinitely beyond the beginning and the end. Time = line segment. Eternity = line.

I believe that is a fallacy. I agree with the line segment for time, but eternity is more like a circle engulfing that line segment. It has no beginning and no end. It is one forever "present," for lack of a better term.

If that is true, then within that eternal circle every second of every line segment may forever exist.

If I could make time stand still, I would...

I cannot help hum a little Jim Croce as I work my way through these thoughts...

If I could save time in a bottle The first thing that I'd like to do Is to save every day 'Til eternity passes away Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever If words could make wishes come true I'd save every day like a treasure and then, Again, I would spend them with you

Where does the time go?

Does it really go anywhere at all or do we just pass over it the way we traverse a sidewalk?

Sometimes we want to make time stand still. Maybe it does. But we don't. We can't. Not yet. When we reach the end of the line segment, however long our segment is blessed to be, do we hop off the segment and into God's eternal circle, where there is no time, but all of time is there still for our perusal? Will time stand still then? Will we be obliged to review how we traveled the time God gave us?

Where does the time go?

God knows. All I know is I don't know how much of it I have to do the things I want to do, to love the people I love, to be what I always wanted to be. I don't know where the time goes, so my advice is to take your time with it.