What I Learned About Time From My Coffee

What I Learned About Time From My Coffee

I used to sit and watch the steam rise off my coffee.  This was particularly evocative on cold mornings in South Africa where many houses have no central heating.  I would sit there and watch the thick steam quickly thin and disappear into the air and I would think on James 4:14.

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. NIV. Time is short.

In college, I had the idea to create a sort of tic sheet based on Psalm 90:12.  I thought that given the new and meteoric rise of complex computing that fit in a palm-sized device, a lot of time was being wasted.  I thought that if someone took a week to mark out their time usage in a given day in 15-minute increments, the results would be revealing. The idea never really gained traction.  In hindsight, I can see why there were mixed reviews of “cumbersome” and “legalistic.” My idea had weight to it though. My phone now has an option that I use to monitor my screen time from week to week.  Why?  Because time is precious and irreplaceable.

Time is an ever-diminishing investment with a regular rate of loss and no guarantee against a sudden run on its stores.  What appears to be eternal in our childhood begins to feel like a gameshow time clock as the years go by.  The steady staccato of Time’s inexorable march beating a soundtrack to our short lives.  This realization tends to produce varied reactions.

For some, this revelation produces a laissez-faire attitude towards their own end as if they were a spectator.  Content to pass their hours in pointless pursuit of diversion; movies, tv shows, Xbox, etc. Never fully engaged in the direction and purpose of their lives.

For others, it induces panic.  The What If’s haunt them and create sorrow for time not yet lost.  They birth a moment, stillborn by mourning its passing before its birth. Keats, said this in one of his most famous sonnets: “When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,…” His sonnet would prove prescient when he passed away at the young age of 25 from tuberculosis.

A decade or so ago, two brothers wrote a brilliant little book called The Traveler. In it, Charlie decides to pack up all his time and find a suitable place to spend it and so he waves goodbye to his parents and a girl and sets out. He sees and experiences all kinds of amazing sunsets and views and opportunities, but he thinks there will be something just a little better to “spend” his time on.  He finds himself back home a sad and broken old man who opens his suitcase to find just a few moments left. He cannot fathom how the time escaped his carefully packed and bound suitcase. In the end, he decides to spend those last few moments with the ones he loves and he is happy.  It isn’t until the end that he realizes you cannot hoard time.

For others, they also see time for what it is, a non-refundable expenditure but they take the hedonistic approach; a la Jack Kerouac:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” They are the “die young and make a pretty corpse” school of thought.  What is the point in growing old and living carefully?  Eat and drink because tomorrow we die (Isaiah 22:13).

The Christian who cultivates a Biblical worldview sees time as non-linear and eternal.  It has a linear aspect (our lives) with a birth date and a death date, but that is simply a small capsule in the eternal vastness that God inhabits; a sort of a fourth dimension where Christ simultaneously is and was and is to come. The small capsule of linear time is what we should view as precious.  It is the moment that God has granted to us to live for His glory and to help others do the same. Within this capsule is the “whosoever will”, the opportunity to choose eternal life instead of eternal death. The opportunity to make an impact on a world lost in chaos.  Each and every day we breathe is the inestimable gift of opportunity.  Don’t go into this day, this week, this month, this year with a fatalistic, hedonistic, or passive approach to time.  Carpe Diem, sieze this day and rejoice in it,”…for this is the day that the Lord has made.” Psalm 118:24