Spots of Time
There is no such thing as tomorrow but the present constantly turns into the future as the past is left behind, avoiding change and clinging to precious moments is impossible. We try to hold on to memories, capture them on film, paste them on Facebook -this may explain my relatives desire to jump up as soon as a celebratory meal is served and take photos of us all chewing with mouths open and food going cold! We can’t seize time to make special things last instead they dissolve even faster - vanished just like our lives will eventually. The Psalmist describes life as a vapour on a cold day. It is all gone so quickly.
The fleeting nature of existence is a huge theme in the arts and Richard Curtis is the latest to grapple with it in his recent film About Time. It is a warm and positive comedy if slightly sentimental which fantasizes about returning to the past to undo mistakes but eventually to relive special relationships trying to avoid the inevitable loss that relentlessly comes with age (no more spoilers- it’s a fun film and worth watching). I am middle aged and I feel the march of time- my eldest daughter about to leave for uni which is simultaneously a joy and a sorrow for us all. I am middle aged and know the grief of losing a parent, the longing that my children could have known my father. Richard Curtis’ fantasy is a tempting dream. What would it be like to go back into your life and maybe take my children to the beach to make extraordinary sandcastles and dams with my dad and try and beat the tide? But even then we could never beat the tide: the waves just kept coming.
There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain,
A renovating virtue.
The Prelude, Book Twelve
Wordsworth believed we could be strengthened by memory, spots of time that sustain us into the future and perhaps there is some truth there. But the reality is that however sentimental we feel about the past it is always today that matters. We bring up our children to leave us. One day that will happen. What counts is how we relate to them in the present and that will in turn impact their future and ours. Something that I am acutely aware of this week – slipping through my fingers all the time comes to mind as I fight my own sentimentality.
I love the reality of scripture which grounds us in the truth of time, Today is the thing that matters; the past can be forgiven and the future certain if we respond to the voice of God Today. The voice of God constantly calls us to listen now, repent now, serve now, live for Christ now – each moment really matters. But unlike so many artists that scrabble around working out how to hold on to the past scripture tells us that only one past event has real power to change the future and that is Christ’s death on the cross. It is the definitive spot of time, the ultimate renovating power. It is a bizarre way of thinking about it but Christians are time travellers; we are incorporated into Christ’s past death once for all and we will be resurrected with Him into glory. The Christian can live for the future with eager expectation. We do not need to mourn the past and because of this we can grasp each day with its inevitable challenges and changes living for Christ Now – whether it’s saying goodbye to a daughter, or embarking on a new life at university.