Time is one of the two most precious things that a human being can possess. I intentionally use the word “possess” strangely because time isn’t an object like a clock that can be placed on a shelf and cherished. You possess time but you don’t own it in the sense that you can transfer it on to a contemporary or hand it down to a beneficiary as an inheritance. You have a finite number of days of life on planet Earth and they are non-transferable; they will be spent by you and you alone. You possess them because they are your days and they exclusively belong to you.
Time is precious because you only have so much of it. Like a wallet full of dollar bills you continually spend your days of time and eventually the wallet becomes empty. The fewer the dollars you have left the more valuable each one becomes. The average newborn baby has 28,000 days in their metaphorical wallet. When you are a child you spend those days foolishly because you have no sense of their value, you seem to have so many. You sleep in until noon, laze around the house playing computer games or entertain yourself with television. You live like a billionaire; you are so rich in days that you don’t concern yourself with petty expenditures. However, what will you give for just one more quality day when you are in your last 24 hours of life? I tell you the truth that you will be willing to give anything. Your most precious day of life will be your final one.
Human beings place a lot of value on money but money is nowhere near as precious as time. I am told that there is an estimated sixty trillion dollars of money in the entire world. A trillion is a million million and there are sixty of those on the planet. That number is so mind boggling large that we might as well consider money to be infinite. Because there are so many dollars on the Earth, each individual one isn’t worth much at all. In the early 1900’s Rockefeller became America’s first billionaire being worth more than a thousand million. Because of the value of money at that time, he is still considered the richest man in modern history. A reporter asked him a simple question, “How much money is enough?” His response, “Just a little bit more,” is a revelation of what I am trying to communicate to you. The financial thirst of the richest man in modern history could not be sated and neither will yours. I wish the reporter had followed that question up with “How many days of life are enough?” I suspect we would have gotten a very different answer because on Rockefeller’s last day his entire fortune was insufficient to purchase for him even one more additional day of life. In death, all of Rockefeller’s massive possessions became completely worthless to him and so it is for all mortals. Like ants we put a tremendous amount of effort into scavenging the Earth to create the biggest pile of possessions that we can only to have the inevitable hurricane of mortality wash it all away in the end. The wisdom of Solomon speaks loudly to those who have ears that can hear; “I have seen all the different kinds of human endeavors which have been done on the Earth, and behold, all is futility like trying to catch the wind.”
The second most precious thing that a human being can possess is peace. Like time, it belongs exclusively to you but unlike time it is transferable. Have you ever been troubled in your heart and had a peaceful person restore your calm state of being? In a very real sense they transferred their peace to you. The wonderful thing about this transference is that you don’t lose your peace when you give it to someone else. Instead, you are more like an artesian well that overflows to those around you. To some people this overflow is a blessing and to others it can be received like a destructive flood.
If you have read much of my blog you know that I write a lot about politics. Politics are like sports to me. They are important to a degree but mostly fanciful entertainment. My world does not rise and fall depending on who is in power or what policies they enact. I’m simply not a hand wringer or stated in mathematical lingo, my peace is not a function of politics. Every day I encounter people who are freaking out due to the current political climate in America. I try to impart peace to them and talk them off of the metaphorical ledge. At times I am so successful that a friend of mine dubbed me “The voice of reason in a very unreasonable world.” Some people are genuinely thankful to receive peace from me while others resent it. They want to be hysterical and angry. They see any attempt at bringing them peace as an act of disarmament. They see themselves as locked in a very important battle that will shape our country and the world. Hate and hysteria are motivators that they need to hold onto in order to endure the fight. They don’t want peace because they interpret receiving it as acquiescence to the political status quo. They propose to endure until the bitter end and “bitter” is the right word because that’s what they all become.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Eugene Peterson, in his wonderful translation, The Message, interpreted this section of the New Testament this way…
“I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”
One of the things that make Christianity an exceptional religion is that peace is something you receive as a free gift. It’s not something you have to work for. In fact, to receive it you have to cease from your striving after it. I have heard people, many times, talking about having to restore their peace through meditation fashioned after eastern religious practices. Our public schools have become such a toxic work environment that it isn’t uncommon to have school-sponsored after-school meditation classes for teachers and staff. The need for peace is very great and these are noble attempts at helping people to find it but whatever progress is made will be temporary at best. When you drink water from that well you will need to return to it time and time again or you will run dry. That peace is not a gift; it is sought after and achieved.
Jesus said that he gives peace to us in a way that is different from the way the world gives it. The world rewards your pursuit and effort. Jesus freely gives when you surrender your pursuit and effort. The peace that the world gives is like an ointment that is topically applied. You slather it on and a certain amount of the medication is absorbed through your skin. It is a “from the outside to the inside” treatment. The peace that Jesus gives is exactly the opposite. He has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the innermost being of his disciples, his believers. It is from that Spirit that peace flows. It is an “inside to the outside” treatment. Believers who are not experiencing peace only need to abandon their efforts at achieving it and the delusion of control. The natural stream that flows through a farmer’s field brings life to his crops through no effort of his own. However, if the farmer has built an aqueduct to transport water unnaturally, he had better pay close attention to maintaining it or the flow will stop. The peace of Jesus is a natural flow and if you have ears that can hear this, He is the Prince of Peace.
When I was young I could not conceive of my death. I could not imagine it happening no matter how hard I tried. It was as if I was immortal, but now at the age of 53 I can see the end of the road like a distant lamplight through a fog. I perceive it as being in the distance but the harsh reality is that it may be like the fine print at the bottom of a passenger side car mirror, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” In the USA and Canada, this warning is required by law and it is no less applicable to those who have passed the half century mark in age. Since the average lifespan is roughly 75 years, for every person you know who dies in their nineties there are nearly as many people who die in their fifties. In a very real sense, once you turn 50 you should consider yourself as living on bonus time. We are never shocked when somebody dies at 95 but despite the mathematical reality we are always shocked when somebody dies at 55. We expect to get our 75 years like it is some kind of cosmic guarantee. It is not, and I have become cognizant of that reality in ways that have previously eluded my deepest intellectual gaze. Barry Grauman has passed out of the fourth quarter and the regular time of life’s football game. He is now playing in overtime and the end of the game will be determined by the rules of sudden death.
Time has become exceedingly precious to me. My wallet that was once full of 28,000 days has now dwindled to an imperceptibly low amount. If I live to be 95 then I have less than 16,000 days remaining. If I live to be only 55 then I have less than 1100 days to live! 1100 days is barely enough time to get my affairs in order and say good-bye. 1100 days is a harsh bell that I pray is not tolling for me. Regardless, as the days of my life grow shorter my peace overflows. I do not fear death, only the pain and sorrow that my passing will inflict upon others and the personal regret of leaving earthly tasks unfinished. I often pray, “Lord, allow me to live long enough to bury all those that I love.” I prefer to carry the burden of bereavement than to be the catalyst for it. In this way I suppose I have a hero complex; the proverbial beast of burden.
As I fix my eyes on that distant lamplight, that is my final day, I feel peace bubble up from deep within me. As it is written, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, I do not understand it at all. I spend no time in meditation to lay hold of it. I do not strive to achieve it. I only strive not to strive. Like a man alone in a swift river, I do not struggle to stay afloat. I relax and allow my natural buoyancy to keep my head above water. I float in peace. Somehow an infinitely deep artesian well exists within my innermost being and up out of it bubbles the most incredible living water. I do not dedicate time to pursue it. I do not manufacture it. It is not situational. Regardless of what happens in the course of my day I am still overtaken by peace as if I am stuck in some kind of absurd recurring day dream where I am racing against Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt. He has toyed with me by allowing me to stretch out a lead, but over and over again he breaks the tape at the finish line a moment before me, always laughing as he goes by. This is not a peace that I can outrun. Even in those moments when I am able to temporarily elude it, the Prince of Peace overtakes me in the end and I feel foolish for having made the attempt. He sits in the heavens and laughs at me, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” And there I remain, a tattoo on both of his open palms; a reminder that a promise of everlasting life has been extended, that forgiveness for all transgressions has been granted, and an adoption with all of the rights of a blood born son has been accomplished. His peace flows through me because he has made his Spirit to dwell in me and that Spirit is always reminding me that…
“God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Once again, I have been awarded the title of “Happy Go Lucky” but this time it is not the end of my seventh grade year of middle school, it is the end of my life. I am in the final phase, I am living on bonus time and it is a glorious time to live because as time grows shorter, peace grows stronger.
If you desire to know this same peace there is no way to achieve it, you can only receive it. Like salvation, it is the free gift of God and the one who gives it has a specific name. His name is Jesus and I am delighted to know him as the source of the inner artesian well, the Prince of Peace.
A friend of mine dubbed me “The voice of reason in a very unreasonable world” which I am flattered by because I am less than that. Having said that, if you enjoyed my writing I invite you to scroll to the very bottom of this page where there is a button labeled “Follow”. If you press that button you will receive a notification whenever this blog is updated with new posts. Thank you for reading.