By Elizabeth Prata
I was driving along, listening to my favorite radio station. It’s a station that plays country during the day, old timey southern Gospel at night, and in between, random oldies from the 60s, 70’s and 80s. I like the variety.
A song from 1978 came on, “I Love the Night Life” by Alicia Bridges. It’s a disco song and you’d know it if you heard it. Maybe. If you’re of an age.
And that’s the thing.
I sang along, marveling that I could remember the lyrics from…wait…I counted back. It was High School, senior year. So … 1978.
So … 41 years ago.
Four decades of adult life. Wow.
It feels strange to have so many decades under my belt. Very strange.
It was yesterday I was driving home from one stupid teenage job or another, singing along to I Love the Night Life…wasn’t it? Yesterday.
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
I believe every word in the Bible. I believe the Spirit when He inspired those words from James. Life goes fast. And then one day, you don’t just believe the words, you’re living them.
How did 4 decades of life suddenly pile up in my memories? How many people, events, meals, tragedies, joys, births, deaths, woes, and hills have I climbed, endured, lived? A tsunami’s worth. It all came crashing back as I drove along, singing lyrics to a song I don’t believe (no I don’t love the nightlife but I love the singer’s voice). How is it that a song can suddenly place us firmly back in time? How can time, ephemeral and temporal, suddenly seem like a ponderous burden, weighing heavily?
This little opinion piece isn’t anything new. Many people before me have opined the same. You see it when someone gives birth and suddenly the child isn’t an infant but walking and talking and cutting teeth. When you realize you’re out of your 20s and an adult with full responsibilities. When you start getting AARP and Life Insurance bulk mail. When you can’t remember the last time you got up out of the chair without groaning or something popping. ‘Where does the time go?’ we ask.
It isn’t just in James that the Bible speaks to time passing as rapidly increasing flow –
You, indeed, have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing before You. Truly each man at his best exists as but a breath. Selah
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.
For my days vanish like smoke, and my bones burn like glowing embers.
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Time is smoke, vapor, breath, breeze.
OK, we know this. What to do about it? First, realize that these lazy days of your 20s or 30s or 40s etc are fleeting, as the Bible says. Second, do as Colossians 3:23 says of servants to masters,
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,
Meaning, don’t work hard just when the master is looking but work hard with all your soul, all the time.
And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. (Titus 3:14)
Proverbs 6:6 tells the sluggard to look to the busy ant and consider her ways. Many Proverbs speak badly of sluggards. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says that those who will not work, won’t eat.
Wisely shepherding the time that Jesus ordains of our days on earth is to His glory. There is work to be done. It’s good to be mindful that time is finite, at least here on earth. It sometimes feels like time is endless, that we have infinite days to accomplish what we want, but we don’t.
Third, it’s good to be heavenly minded. We will be called to account when we arrive before the throne. What will Jesus say to us? Well done good and faithful servant? Or ‘You’re here as just barely escaping the fire’? (1 Corinthians 3:15). I heard a preacher say once of the verse where God will wipe away our tears in heaven, (Revelation 21:4) that the tears could be from sorrow for all the time we wasted on earth failing to labor for God’s glory while we had time to do so. It’s a good an explanation as any for why there will be tears in heaven, if the verse is meant literally.
Even if that is not so, it’s a good thing to keep in mind. We will see our works that we not do for Christ and perhaps the time wasted that had no works at all, burned as hay and stubble. I think of Edwards, Spurgeon, Muller, Apostle Paul, who worked what seemed like every second of their waking hours for the Lord, and I think of the time that I spend frittering away. If there is anything to cry about in heaven, that would be it.
Time. Where does it go. Soon time will be no more. I’ll be glad that the burden of memories and the weight time gone under the bridge will be lifted. Meanwhile,
“How did it get so late so soon?”