Sometimes it flies, sometimes it crawls, but it always passes inexorably. We mark it, save it, waste it, bide it, race against it. We measure it incessantly, with a passion for precision that borders on the obsessive. It is a familiar stranger, because it cannot be seen, touched, smelled, heard or tasted. Yet, it has as much reality as the ground you are standing upon.
Time is so vitally enmeshed with the fabric of our existence that it’s difficult to conceive of it concretely—and when we try, the result is less than enlightening. We intuitively know what it is because we experience its passing, but as natural as the notion of time may be have you ever tried to define it?
Ben Franklin tried his best when he said, “Time is the stuff life is made of.” Henry David Thoreau once mused, “Time is but the stream that I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.” St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “If no one asks me, I know; but if any person should require me to tell him, I cannot. My mind is on fire to understand this intricate riddle.” Perhaps the most insightful and simple explanation that I’ve ever heard goes like this, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
Not only is the concept of time tough to pin down, but our experience of time in hardly uniform. The classic poem, “Time’s Paces,” by Henry Twells encapsulates this thought well:
When I was a babe and wept and slept—time crept;
When I was a boy and laughed and talked—time walked.
Then when the years saw me a man—time ran.
But as I older grew—time flew.
Soon, as I journey on, I'll find time gone.
A minute is a funny amount of time. It's long enough to notice, but it's too short to do much of anything with. There are only about five hundred thousand of them in a year. But when you add all of humanity together, a lot starts to happen in that lowly minute. Consider what happens before the second hand of a clock completes one rotation:
25 Americans will get a passport, according to the U.S. Department of State. 58 airplanes will take off around the world, according to the International Air Traffic Association. 116 people will get married, according to data from the United Nations. 144 people will move to a new home, according to Gallup. 11,319 packages will be delivered by UPS. 243,000 photos will be uploaded to Facebook. 5,441,400 pounds of garbage will be created, according to the World Bank. 7,150,000,000 human hearts will beat 500,500,000,000 times, as their bodies create 858,282,240,000,000,000 new red blood cells, according to the National Institutes of Health. Finally, 255 babies will be born and 107 people will die, says Google.
Those amazing statistics should help us to never look at minute the same way again, especially considering that one day will be one of those 107 to step into eternity. While we may never fully grasp the nature of time, we are told in the Bible to use it wisely. Ephesians 5:15-16 has been called the Bible’s key to time management, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
The word “redeem” contains the idea of rescuing from loss. Paul admonishes us to treat time as something precious that must be rescued from being lost to fruitlessness. But “redeeming the time” goes far beyond being efficient. It’s a wonderful phrase that can also be translated “making the most of every opportunity.” It suggests an attitude toward living that sees every situation as the perfect occasion to do God’s will and influence others for Him.
I remember a short story a preacher once told at the end of his sermon. As a sculptor showed a visitor some marble figures displayed in his studio, an unusual sculpture caught the guest's attention. It had two peculiar features. Where the statue's face normally would have been, the sculptor had chiseled a covering of hair, and on both feet were wings.
“What is the name of this one?” asked the visitor. “Opportunity,” the artist answered. “Why is its face hidden?” the onlooker wondered. “Because,” said the craftsman, “we seldom know opportunity when he comes to us.” “And why does he have wings on his feet?” “Because he is soon gone, and once gone, he cannot be overtaken.”
Keep your eyes peeled for the opportunities to present themselves this year. They are brief moments of personal contact—a passing incident, the turn of a conversation, or the “chance” meeting of an old acquaintance. Such times present golden opportunities for caring, for witnessing, for eternal good. May the Lord give us wisdom to grasp today’s opportunities and make time for what’s important to Him. -DM
 Robinson Meyer, "What Happens in One Minute Around the World?" The Atlantic, 14 March 2014 < http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/03/what-happens-in-one-minute-around-the-world/284368/>