Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A Matter of Time

Every year about now, most of us start thinking about time in a way that we don't usually think about it. We look at our calendar that is quickly running out of days, and we become very reflective. 

The last year...where did it go? 

The news reminds us of things that have happened in the past twelve months - the top searches on the Internet, celebrities who died, headlines that dominated our evenings. A lot of the time, we look at these things and think to ourselves, "That was this year?" 

So many of these things that happened seem like forever ago. It feels like we've been living with or without them for a lot longer than just a few months. 

Maybe, as we start to think about a new year, we start to think about our last new year, that year ago when we promised ourselves all of the changes we were going to make in our lives. Some of them might have panned out; many did not. We think with a deep sense of regret about how we let ourselves down...again...and how maybe we just aren't cut out to make the changes we want to make, no matter how badly we want to make them. (That won't stop us from making the same promises to ourselves again this week, by the way. And most of us will do so without a remarkably different plan for accomplishing them than the one that failed us last year.)

We start thinking about time, and for most of us, what we're thinking is about how quickly time actually passes us by. It doesn't always seem like it in the moment, especially in our tough seasons, but for some reason, when it's time to turn the page, it feels like maybe we've only blinked twice and here we are again. 

And that's because when most of us think about time in this way, we're struck by the nagging suspicion that we have wasted quite a lot of it. 

We're disappointed in our lives. We're upset with ourselves. We hate that when we look in the mirror this week, our lives look roughly the same as they did a year ago, two years ago, three years ago when we looked in the mirror on precisely this week and vowed that we were going to change some things. 

I wrote about this last year, or maybe the year before, but it seems like the number one feeling we have when another year draws to a close is...regret. We don't remember as clearly so many of the achievements, the accomplishments, the good moments, the fun things that we've had this year. All we seem to remember is that right now doesn't feel fundamentally different than it did last year, and does that make us failures? Have we really wasted another year?

Listen, you haven't wasted it. If you've lived it, it wasn't wasted. If you got up and did the same thing every day this year, it wasn't wasted. If your life is not where you wanted it to be when you dreamed about coming to the end of this year, it wasn't wasted. 

Life can't be measured in years...and it can't be measured by what this year looks like compared to any other year. That's not the way life works. Life is measured in moments, in breaths, in experiences, in memories. Life is measured in the little things that happen that yes, don't look like the big things, but really, they are. 

My guess is that you had a lot of good moments this past year, moments that don't look like they mattered for whatever reason. And I'm here to tell you - those are precisely the ones that did. That still do. 

We can't let ourselves get caught up in a measure of time that comes in pages. That's not how time works, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that it is. The pages are something we've done to ourselves and said that it matters, but it doesn't matter.

The truth about time is that it doesn't exist in pages and it doesn't exist in years and it doesn't exist in accomplishments or failures. It exists in exactly one breath - this one. 

God has a really good perspective on this, and we'll talk about that a little bit tomorrow.  

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