Different seasons of life and of a year bring their own special complexities. With the Holidays, time stretches thin unlike any other period of the year. There is so much to do, arrange, and see. Time becomes an even more precious resource, but it quickly becomes all too evident that the more time you need the less time there is.
Moreover, contrast this pivotal resource of life with others, such as energy and finances, and a sharp distinction becomes obvious. While these other assets fluctuate, time constantly diminishes. No matter what one possesses, no matter how vibrant their body and mind, no matter the financial resources at their disposal, time cannot be purchased or stockpiled. One cannot gain access to additional time; they merely have the amount given them.
So, does the scarcity of time make it more valuable? Are there other facets of life, when coupled with this fleeting resource, that make the seconds, minutes and hours of life more precious? Most importantly, why haven't all of the supposed time saving features of modern life provided us more time, isn't this what was promised? It seems high time our society took a concerted look at how best to use life's most precious gift.
The one thing money can't buy
The old saying, "Time is money," argues for their equality. In a sense this is true, money has the potential to accomplish much. In fact, in today's world there is probably little that money cannot buy. Yet, for all of its power it cannot secure more time. Time is the one resource money is incapable of manipulating. But so what? Just because money cannot buy time does not mean money is insignificant or less important. Though, it does reveal that time stops for no one, rich or poor.
This is a central truth of life that our affluent society has forgotten. The pursuit of financial gain is an American obsession. We expend much of the time given us on pursuing riches, without understanding or noticing the resource expended is of exponentially greater value. Why, because without time the financial gain is impossible. Dead men do not earn dollars.
Time and the Great Multiplier
So, if time is the most precious resource life offers, the question then becomes how does one use it wisely. One suggestion is to employ it in multiplying those aspects of life that possess intrinsic value. Relationships are central when applying this principle. For, relationships are most certainly a dynamic of life that has the potential to multiply time.
Think of a parent's relationship with their child, and the ripple effect this relationship can have on decades, if not centuries of time and numerous other relationships. Moreover, is not the parent who instills the qualities of holiness and virtue a wise employer of time? Their actions have the potential to not only multiply in many ways, but also for an eternal purpose.
Consider another intrinsically valuable facet of life, at least for the Christian: prayer. For contemporary believers this seems to be one of the more taxing tasks the Christian life demands. For, prayer takes time, and time is short and the day is long.
However, Peter Kreeft, a Christian philosopher, offers an important understanding of time and prayer. He notes, "We have time and prayer backwards. We think time determines prayer, but prayer determines time. We think our lack of time is the cause of our lack of prayer, but our lack of prayer is the cause of our lack of time." This understanding of the relationship of time to prayer is not a pithy saying to be taken lightly, but biblical insight into the significance of both. For, it seems the One who listens to the prayer knows something of multiplication.
Matthew chapter 14 speaks to the ability of Christ to multiply scarce resources in order to maximize their potential. Yet, consider if the child had never offered his five loves and two fish. Christ's ability to multiply would, at least in this instance, never been engaged. Thus, it seems time, if placed in right relationship to an apt and powerful ear can be multiplied.
Life, Time, and Modernity
Succinctly put, life in modern society is belligerently backwards. Many Americans subscribe to the notion that acquiring items or techniques will indeed grant a reprieve from the death knell that is a mismanaged life. However, the items and techniques are not the issue, but rather modern humanities understanding of a life. We certainly have the definition wrong, and it is becoming increasingly obvious how we live life is lacking.
Picture modern family life in terms of how time is used. There is work, school, friends, immediate and extended family, extracurricular activities of every kind, homework, religious activities, shopping, etc., and this does not even take into account central needs such as sleep, meals, and hygiene. Modern life is arranged around tasks and duties, which consume a large portion of the time given us each day. It does not matter the tasks or duties in which our time is invested, as long as it is invested. Though few of us would agree with this precept, many of us live it everyday. More importantly, the data is damning. This utilitarian view of time has riddled modern society, families, and individuals with discontent, loneliness, and want of purpose.
Moreover, C.S. Lewis leveled a crucial condemnation of modernity nearly a half century ago. He noted that progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. Yet, if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer to the progress desired.
Modern humanity cannot accept this notion. To admit false ideas and practices have crept in and festered within our "enlightened" society is the only sin that remains. Given this repudiation of repentance, time is impotent to aid modern society. For, we use it in service of the wrong master. Think of all the resources readily available to contemporary Americans, and yet we have not the time to exploit them for the Kingdom, because we have bought the notion that our kingdom is more important.
How now should we live?
Let us return to where we began: the Christmas season. At this point everyone has certainly caught a taste of the craziness Christmas has become. So, how does one break free and redeem this time of year for what it truly is?
First, focus on relationships. People are important and should be given the time they deserve. What better time of the year than Christmas to put this notion into practice. Second, remember that if you sacrificially offer your time to Christ, he and he alone has the authority to multiply it. Finally, never forget the features of this life can become nothing more than a distraction and thief of the most precious of life's gifts. Time is limited, yet of eternal value. What makes it so is how you use it and whom you give it to.