T.I.M.E.–Take It / Make Eternal
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven … [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of [humans] … (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11–NIV).
Is it just me, or does time seem strange these days? Elusive? As though there’s too much of it and yet, not enough.
Some time ago, I walked into a junk shop in a rural town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After poking around a bit, I discovered a treasure.
A large, weathered book lay on a metal shelf amidst a plethora of others. Covered in dust, I swiped across it with my hand to reveal the title–The Original Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. The pages were brittle, and I turned them carefully to determine the dictionary’s age. 1895.
Being one for words, I was more than a bit excited about this find, though I assumed the book would exceed my price range. Much to my surprise, however, the shop owner said it was a mere $10, and I purchased it on the spot.
Needless to say, it sits on the bookshelf in our living room gathering dust much like it did in its former home in Michigan. Every now and again, I pull it out. Unlike dictionaries of today, this one uses old-fashioned language and often refers to scripture in its definitions. Such was the purpose of its creator and namesake, Noah Webster.
In my aforementioned pondering of time, I decided to see what Webster had to say on the matter and was amazed at the length of time’s definition. Nearly filling an entire column of this massive book, it took time to read, to fully comprehend all that was written about it.
Webster confirmed what I’d been thinking. Time is measurable–by seconds, minutes, hours, and so on. It can also be measured by earth’s rotation on its axis (day), as well as its revolution around the sun (year). It has a beginning. An end.
Time, too, is synonymous with season, which made me think of Solomon’s words–There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
Because Noah Webster was a firm believer in God and in His Word–having said, Education is useless without scripture–I decided to see what the Bible also had to say about time. I was shocked to discover that, from Genesis to Revelation, the word time is used on nearly 890 occasions. (I started out counting in my NIV concordance, but at about 230, had the brilliant idea that, to save time, I could google it instead.)
Suddenly, I found myself singing Too Much Time on My Hands (Styx), which led me on a rabbit trail in search of songs having to do with time. Although there are likely more, my research landed me on a jackpot–a listing of the top 100 songs that have time in their titles. (This is mere trivia, and, while I don’t advise you waste too much time here, it’s fun!)
Still, 100 songs is small potatoes compared to the 888 references to time in the Bible, and I kept returning throughout my day to the thought, Time must be important to God.
Not one to believe in coincidences, my ears perked when, hours later, I listened to my friend Lucinda Secrest McDowell while watching a video in preparation for my women’s Wednesday night Bible study. We’re reading her book Soul Strong, and she said something that resonated. Having to do with soul-care, she said,
[Our souls are] … the life-center of human beings … The most important thing in your life … is not what you do but who you become. That’s what will take you into eternity.
And that’s when Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes echoed again. Doesn’t he speak of time but also of eternity? Which begged the question, Is eternity time or something else? After all, unlike time which can be measured, eternity, by its very definition, can’t be measured. It has no beginning or end. Like the mathematical term infinity, it has no limit.
My mind began to spin at these deep thoughts, as I’ve never been much of a math girl. To keep myself from toppling over, I turned my thoughts to prayer–Dear God, help me make sense of this. And then, in a quiet whisper I’ve come to recognize as His still, small voice, I heard–
Time is mine to do with as I please as one relinquishes it to me. That which I make of one’s time has eternal results. Such is the fruit of eternity.
This, too, seemed almost too much for me to fathom. Was God saying that, as I surrender my time to Him–inviting Him to take the seconds, minutes, and hours of each day–He uses it, using me (and you), to grow eternal things? In my life? In the lives of others?
And then, seeing me grapple, He simplified the matter with an acrostic. T.I.M.E. is asking God to–
In other words, God seemed to be saying that, if we give our time (and talents) to Him by praying, for example, the prayer of Moses (Psalm 90), He will Take It and Make Eternal things with it.
From everlasting to everlasting you are God (v. 2b).
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom … (v. 12)
Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days … (v. 14).
May the favor of the Lord rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands (v. 17).
I needed to hear this. Maybe you do too. Because so often, I waste time worrying. Time slips by as I hurry unproductively through my days–distracted by social media, with the pile of To Dos, and the dust that gathers in all those nooks and crannies.
All the while, God’s calling us to Be still and know that [He is] God (Ps. 46:10). Only by making this our starting point–spending precious time in His presence–can we get up and go, trusting God with our time, believing He will use us to produce fruit for eternity.
In our relationships.
We spend time, planting seeds in the soil of others’ hearts–pointing them to Jesus. The fruit of such is eternal.
In our words.
We take the time to speak life to others–professing the truth of Jesus. The growth of such is eternal.
In our actions.
We make time to serve others–exemplifying Jesus. Such takes root to produce that which is eternal.
I’m challenged to surrender my time to God and look first to His Word–trusting that He’ll make something beautiful in His time. And perhaps, every now and then, I’ll blow the dust off that old dictionary and see what Webster has to say, as well.
Thank you, Jesus, for Your Word, and for lovers of words, like Mr. Webster. Help us surrender our time that You might make something eternal! Amen.
To hear to my favorite song having to do with both time and eternity, click Time in a Bottle (by Jim Croce). I spent a lot of time as a child listening to this song on my record player.