Perspectives on Time
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Here’s a clichéd question for you: How would you live if you knew this day was your last day on earth?
This question is presented in hundreds of motivational books, seminars, and lectures. Sometimes it’s worded differently, but the concept is the same: “Live every day as if it were your last.” The unfortunate thing about often-repeated phrases is that they very soon lose their meaning.
It’s also kind of a difficult question to answer—at least if you’re not really dying the next day. Many people say that they’d use that last day to do something good. They would reconnect with those who are important to them. They’d do something to help others. They’d right some wrong. They’d forgive and ask for forgiveness. It seems as though many people see it as sort of a day of redemption—a day to make up for all that they failed to do throughout their lives.
A takeaway from this is that we should strive to live life in such a way that we won’t need a last day to set everything right. Jesus set us an example of this as He faced the last days of His life. He was aware that His time on earth was coming to a close. His mission on earth was nearly complete and He knew that He would soon be betrayed and executed. So how did He live during His last 24 hours?
He set aside time with His disciples where He shared a meal with them. He welcomed each of them by washing their feet, a job generally given to the lowest servant. Jesus showed each of His disciples great love and humility by stooping to wash their feet. He made Himself a servant.1
He was betrayed, but He didn’t retaliate. He was mistreated, yet He didn’t lose His temper. Those closest to Him turned their backs on Him, but He didn’t react in anger. He was wrongfully accused and humiliated, but He held His tongue.2
He was unfailingly honest. When He was brought before His judges—first the Sanhedrin and then Pilate—they asked Him straight out, “Are You the Son of God?” He could have saved Himself a lot of pain and anguish by simply skirting the truth. But He upheld the truth, no matter what the cost.3
He was forgiving. After being whipped, mocked, spit on, and dragged through the streets to hang on a cross, He said, “Father, forgive them.” He could have called down fire and lightning on His tormentors and cursed them for hurting the Son of God. But instead He forgave even as they mocked and insulted Him.4
He was caring. Despite the agony of hanging on the cross, He took time to make sure His mother would be cared for. He took time to listen to the thief dying beside Him, and to reassure him as he died. Instead of only thinking about Himself and the pain He was in, He thought of others and their well-being.
The way Jesus spent His last day was really no different from the way He lived His whole life. Jesus lived every day as if it were His last, because honesty, humility, love, forgiveness, and kindness were an integral part of His nature, so those were the qualities He portrayed. Living each day as though it were your last is about spending your time and energy on the important things—things that won’t fade with time, but will last through eternity.—Marie Story
The gift of perspective
I was listening to the radio a few days ago. The speaker was Tim Timmons, a man who has become pretty well known in the Christian music circle. About ten years ago, he found out that he has an incurable form of cancer. During his interview, he said something that impressed me: “The gift through an incurable cancer, or any other sorrow we face, is perspective. And perspective is the gift that keeps on giving.”
Why would cancer give the gift of perspective? It probably really clarifies what matters and what doesn’t. You’re aware that the clock of your life is ticking faster than most other people’s. Questions like “Will this matter if I only have one more year to live?” are probably always at the forefront of your mind.
The pressing awareness of the imminence of death clarifies what really matters and what does not. Things that seem important, like how much money you make or how beautiful you are, quickly lose their worth, while who you are with and what you are doing matter much more. Even as I try to imagine it, I know I am not able to get that full clarity in perspective that a life-altering illness would bring. But I can do my best to live as if my days on earth were numbered (which they are) and embrace life and loved ones as fully as I can.
When I need to look for perspective on the things I face, I like to quote King David’s prayer: “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”5 From the top of the rock, you get a very different point of view or perspective than you do from below.
A new perspective is something we can ask the Lord for, just like King David did. Even with a new perspective, there will still be things that we can’t fully grasp or comprehend yet; we may still see through a glass dimly while we are on earth.6 But we have the promise that one day we will fully understand and know, even as we are already fully known by God. That’s when it will all make perfect sense.—Mara Hodler
It’s about time
I recently watched a movie called About Time, where the men of a certain family could go back in time to correct mistakes or replay moments in their lives. We can all see the benefit of having the ability to go back in time. We could right any wrongs, change a decision we made, or take our proverbial foot out of our mouths when we said or did something awkward.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that ability. We only get one chance to live through each day, and sometimes we forget how priceless each day is. We often allow the daily problems and stress to crowd out the wonderful blessings we have—friendships, family, experiences, and the fact that we’re creating memories each day that we can keep forever.
What we value is also often a matter of perspective. We often don’t appreciate something when it’s always available or when we have an abundance of it, which is a concept that can be applied to time. It is often only when work or life crowds our schedule, or when sickness or accidents threaten to take it away completely that we pay closer attention to how precious our time here is.
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
In the movie About Time, the father advises his son to live every day twice. He suggests that he live it the first time with all the tension and worries that stop him from noticing how sweet the world could be, and the second time taking time to stop and notice—to love the people around him and enjoy all the beautiful things. We unfortunately don’t have the luxury of traveling back in time, but we can strive to live each day to the full the first time around, making note of all the wonderful things in it and God’s goodness to us.
In the Bible, Jesus told a short story about a rich fool who stored up all his wealth in barns, and when his barns couldn’t hold any more of his goods, he decided to build bigger barns in order to store it all for himself. God wasn’t impressed, and told him that that same night he would die and asked him to whom all those things would belong after his death.7 What was he able to take with him of all the things he had selfishly kept from others and from God? Nothing!
This reminds me of a modern joke about another rich fool: This rich man had spent his whole life acquiring so much money that he pleaded with God to let him take some of it with him to heaven. God chuckled at his foolishness, but decided to grant him his wish and let him choose one valuable thing to take with him. The rich man decided that he would sell all his wealth and buy gold bars, which had the highest value, and take that with him. Pleased with himself, he arrived at the gates of heaven, where Saint Peter greeted him and asked what was in his very heavy suitcase. The rich man explained the deal he made with God. Curious, Peter asked what he had chosen to bring, as it must be very special indeed! The rich man proudly opened the case to show him the glimmering gold bricks. Surprised, Peter exclaimed, “You brought pavement?”
Streets of gold aside, this is a good reminder of what really matters at the end of the day. As Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”—Nina Kole
Adapted from Just1Thing podcasts, a Christian character-building resource for young people. Published on Anchor April 2021. Read by Jon Marc. Music by Michael Dooley.
1 John 13:5.
2 Luke 22:45–71.
3 Luke 22:66–71.
4 Luke 23:34.
5 Psalm 61:2 KJV.
6 1 Corinthians 13:12.
7 Luke 12:16–21.