February 2, 2011
Last night, half a dozen Transmissioners gathered at Caleb’s place by Columbia to talk and wonder about time. Caleb hosted us, while Katie made an excellent garlic soup and gooey glorious pie.
Last night’s Transmission was an eye-opener for me and hopefully for the others there. I wanted to talk about time, specifically how we think about time, how fast we think our lives are going by, how often we think about mortality or old age. Amber Bennett suggested setting up an “Agree” and “Disagree” group for some statements that would give a general idea of our attitudes on time. Where do you stand on some of these, agree or disagree?
“There are never enough hours in the day to do what I’m trying to do.”
“I’m balancing my time right, putting it towards the things I value most.”
“I have a 1, a 5 or a 10-year plan.”
“Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.”
“I fear dying before I get to where I want to be.”
“I’m still young.”
“I’ve written my will.”
“Time is money.”
Caleb noted that while most of the group disagreed with “I’m still young,” none of us had written our wills yet either. I guess that makes us “middle-age”?
The theme came to me through a combination of things. I tend to be very impatient and I’ve had times in my life when friends have died that have made me wonder “What if my life ended tomorrow? What about all the things I haven’t done?” That question could easily drive me to a panic if I thought about it enough, and even though I do believe in an afterlife, it doesn’t make the prospect of this life ending that much easier to take.
in the group seemed to have had this same fear. Elaine said she’s learned to not be afraid of dying before she gets to her goals in life, by just trying to live each day to the fullest. If she can go to bed every night knowing that she’d lived that day to the best of her ability, she can relax about what may come next.
Elaine added though that this devotion to living the days has a downside, in that she tends to be impatient, as I am.
A new visitor to the group, Elizabeth, commented on that impatience with something her mother had told her: “Life is not made for ‘getting through.’ If all you’re doing is aiming to get through school, get through work and get through your day, what will you have gained when you come to the end?”
We then took on some of the biggest Biblical quotes around time. EPHESIANS 5:
“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Wait on God with patience from 2 PETER 3…
“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.”
The Apocalypse from 2 PETER 3…
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”
Relax, in spite of the coming apocalypse, from Luke…
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn;
yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”
Kind of mixed messages. As I said to the group, it seems sometimes that with the message of the imminent apocalypse mixed in, it feels like we’re being told that the plane we’re on is about to crash but that we should all sit back and enjoy the flight.
Christianity is a radical faith, as Sarah said last night, in its emphasis on being prepared for the apocalypse. It’s hard to live the usual life of working hard, saving for the future, planning for your family, when you’re being told that the end is about to arrive. Meanwhile, we’re also told not to worry about things that seem pretty commonsense to worry about: it’s hard to believe that God provides everything for all people when you look at the amount of despair and need amongst the poor of the world. Worry seems like a necessary survival skill.
For me, it comes down to realizing that the things of this world are passing, that I cannot take whatever riches I make with me, and that worrying about things that I can’t control is totally fruitless. What I can do is live the day as fully as possible, as Elaine said, as if it were my last day, but simultaneously plan for a future that may or may not happen. A future that if it does happen, will be a gift, and not just another time to “get through.”