Thanksgiving is a great season to ponder the gift of time. Especially since time wasted can never be regained.
Time is a gift from God. We are given 24 hours every day, 7 days every week, 52 weeks every year. Yet death can come as a thief in the night; none of us knows the number of our days. Still, the question is not, “How many days will I live?” but “How will I live the days I have been given?”
The British journalist and author Malcolm Muggeridge was a Marxist and agnostic for most of his years. Late in life he became a follower of Christ and wrote a biography with the provocative title, Chronicles of Wasted Time. How many hours, days, and years have we squandered wandering in the wilderness, “traveling paths that go nowhere, wandering in a maze of detours and dead ends?” (Proverbs 2:15, The Message) How many hours of wasted time are recorded in my days? How many years of time will these hours become?
The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to make the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:16 ESV) Many cultures have little sense of the value of time. In contrast, the Reformers and Puritans understood what a precious gift time is, and lived to redeem it. (For more on the Biblical concept of work and rest see Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure by Professor Leland Ryken. The author contrasts the biblical view with how other belief systems treat the subject.)
I am currently reading Letters to Young Ladies by poet, songwriter, maternal feminist and mentor, Lydia Sigourney. Yesterday, I read the chapter, “Value of Time.” She describes how our understanding of time changes in “life’s receding hours,” a truth I am very aware of. To the young, one’s days seem endless. As I approach my seventh decade, though still 37 in spirit, I walk on the legs of an 80-year-old. I’m sensing more that the days of my life have a limit. What will I do with them?
Sigourney is writing to youth, but her words remind us all the importance of redeeming time.
The waste of time in youth is a greater evil than at any other period of existence. “The mis-improvement of youthful days,” says an elegant writer, “is more than the mere loss of time. Figure to yourself the loss that the year would sustain were the spring taken away: such a loss do they sustain who trifle in youth.
To waste time in youth is to miss the spring planting and thus lose the fall harvest.
I’m thankful that I spend much of my time with young people. Their energy and exuberance keep me young. But many of them do not seem to appreciate the gift of time. They don’t realize they should be planting for the coming harvest season.
In my late twenties I was studying with Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri when it struck me for the first time that I had never had a thought in my life! In school, I had learned to parrot back what my teachers had taught me. But I had not learned to think. How could I have lived all those years without using the gift of my mind? Since then I have sought to be a life-long learner. And now is no time to quit.
My friends often ask, “Darrow, when will you retire?” My reply always ready: “The word retirement is not in my vocabulary.” There is no retirement when we serve the King to advance his kingdom.
No matter where you are in the journey of life, may this message encourage you to recognize what a precious gift time is, and how vital it is to use it well.
– Darrow Miller