01 Aug 2016
Human beings have always been puzzled by the phenomenon of time. Ironically, Einstein’s brilliant insight into the relativity of time has made it even more challenging for the layman to grasp the nature of time. The more we know about time, the harder it is to wrap your head around it.
However, most of us are not too troubled by our shortcomings in understanding time philosophically. Our concerns are pragmatic. Since time immemorial, the progress of civilization has been driven in large part by mankind’s need to answer one question: how can we do more in less time? We developed increasingly faster modes of locomotion. We invented a bewildering array of time-saving appliances. We built machines that can do quadrillions of operations per second.
At a personal level, our obsession with efficiency makes us ditch our working mobile phones for the latest one that promises no lag at all. We switch our computer storage to solid state drives that read and write faster. We try valiantly to become masters of multi-tasking, hoping to squeeze even more into our already-packed 24 hours, always lamenting that we simply don’t have enough time. We tell others and ourselves that we really do want to exercise, do more with our children, read, volunteer—if only we had more time. In church, we excuse our prayerlessness, our irregularity, our refusal to serve and our failure to do what we promised all on our lack of time.
The bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Becoming a Christian means cultivating a whole new perspective to all of life, and that must include our concepts about time. As redeemed people, it is time that we abandon our unenlightened thoughts. For a start, we ought to see that we are called people. God has called us to do certain things with our lives, and he has allotted each of us a certain portion of time to answer his calling. The staggering implication that flows from this truth is that we are never lacking in time. Since God is perfect, wise and loving, he would never demand that we do more than what we are capable of. We do not have all the time in the world to do all we wish to do, but we will always have all the time we need to fulfill what God has called us to do.
Why then do we still feel the time crunch so acutely? I submit that the solution requires us to do two things. First, we must see that our struggle has got to do with priority, not quantity. We need to prayerfully sort out what exactly God has called us to do, and we need to courageously say no to everything (and everyone) else. We see Jesus practising this consistently. He was incredibly effective at what he did. What he accomplished in 3 short years changed the world forever, but one thing you never see him do, unlike us, is hurrying. In fact, his disciples were often impatient with his pace, and all sorts of people tried to get him to do what they wanted, but Jesus made it clear that he operated on a different timetable: he was always, and only, doing the will of his Father. In the same way, Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
The second correction we need to make is to let go of our perfectionistic demand for excellence and instead embrace the idea of optimisation. We idolise the sportsmen, performers and businessmen who achieve dizzying heights of achievements, but they can do so only because they sacrifice many other aspects of their lives. Whether that is right or wrong is not the point. God has not called most of us to live our lives focusing narrowly on one thing. We cannot just be perfect parents, or give all our time to our jobs, or spend all our time travelling around the world. Instead, just like the way we budget and allocate our money, we need to devote a reasonable amount of time to each of the things God has called us to do, do what we can, stop doing everything else, and then leave the outcomes to him without feeling guilt or insecurity.