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Janie B. Cheaney: It’s about time


WORLD Radio - Janie B. Cheaney: It’s about time

Perhaps the ebb and flow of time surprises us because we were made for eternity

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MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 4th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Up next, WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney says time is a difficult concept to understand, but it does point us toward living in light of eternity.

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: I used to complain that time was my enemy, especially when running late for an appointment. Now I have too much of it as the years stacked up behind me are pushing me forward faster and faster.

Time is measured in minutes, hours, and days, but it squeezes and expands like an accordion. When I was 6, Christmas took forever to arrive. At age 10, I couldn’t wait for school to start, and two days after it did I couldn’t wait for winter break. Time dragged when I was a mom stuck at home with toddlers, and flashes by today when shopping for my oldest granddaughter’s 17th birthday. Nieces and nephews I knew as babies now post Facebook pictures of their kids going off to college.

“They grow up so fast!” Every young mother hears this, but it’s hard to believe when a colicky newborn is waking her up four times a night. “The days are long, the years are short” makes no sense to a teenager who can’t wait to get out from under his parents’ thumb. But it’s true.

Time is just weird.

Augustine of Hippo ruminated at length about it in his Confessions, admitting he knew what time was so long as no one asked him to define it. Did time even exist? If so, where and how? Like travelers on a road, humans can only experience time moment by moment. But God sees the whole road. In the end, Augustine could settle the problem in his own mind by entrusting it to God’s mind; time could only be resolved by eternity.

Meanwhile, as C. S. Lewis observed, we’re “so little reconciled to time, that we are ever astonished by it. ‘How he’s grown!’ we exclaim. ‘How time flies!’ as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It’s as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the very wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed: unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.”

As the Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Beauty has its time, but eternity haunts us. It’s as if we were destined to become, one day, eternal.

Perhaps we can understand time (and space) as the canvas on which God paints Creation. And if that’s the case, as eternal creatures, perhaps we’ll examine the whole cloth of time as God has woven each of us into it; marveling at the intricate patterns and mysterious providences and startling connections. Discovering what God has done from beginning to end will be a glory to look forward to, even better than Christmas.

Meanwhile, every moment weaves into the final cloth. Or, as R.C. Sproul used to say, “Right now counts forever.”

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

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