The River of Time
The first half of 2004 has come and gone. Hard to believe, but the days are already getting shorter, which means that we've made the big turn and are heading toward winter. Every year I'm struck by how the days start getting longer in late December even though the worst of winter is yet to come, and the days start getting shorter in late June even though the summer has hardly started. The changing of the seasons reminds us of the brevity and essential futility of life apart from God. And it points to us to the faithfulness of the Lord whose character does not change. The lesson is: Enjoy these warm summer days, but do not take them for granted. Winter comes soon enough. On my way back from CBA, I sat next to a young mother and her two-year-old son. At one point she remarked, "They grow up so quickly, don't they?" I smiled and said, "Blink your eyes and your son will be in high school. Blink again and he'll be married and on his own." There is no reversal for the ongoing march of time. It is a river that flows inexorably on its way to the great sea of eternity. No man can stop the river, not even for a moment.
Recently I've been thinking about the principle of intentionality as our one chief weapon against the ceaseless march of time. It all started when I watched a man on PBS give some lectures on the topic. At one point he referenced the famous line from Proverbs, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). What we think about today, we become tomorrow. What we dwell upon shapes our destiny. As I pondered the matter, it occurred to me that intentionality is the best way to fight against the ceaseless flow of the river of time. As long as I'm alive, I'm in the river and the river flows ever onward. I don't have a choice about being in the river of time. Sometimes it flows slowly, placidly, and the peaceful passing of the days makes me forget the slow movement of the current. Other times the river rushes through the rapids, and sometimes the river becomes an unmanageable torrent and it's all I can do to hang on.
Life is like that because the river of time is like that. But whether fast or slow, the river rolls onward. And that's where intentionality comes in. I don’t have a choice about being in the river. I can say “Let’s stop right here and enjoy this beautiful spot,” but the river pays me no mind. But I do have a choice about what I do while I’m floating down the river. I can navigate or I just drift idly along. I can decide by my choices where in the river I’ll be at any given moment. Or I can just close my eyes and let the river take me wherever it wills.
A verse from a familiar hymn says it this way:
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
So the first half of 2004 has come and gone, never to return. What use have you made of the last six months? As the river of time has rolled along, have you navigated your course or have you been drifting along aimlessly? “Redeem the time,” said the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:16. Redeem it, buy it up, use it wisely. Enjoy every moment as a gift from God and do not take anything for granted. Soon enough the river will sweep you out into the sea of eternity, and your adventure through this life will be over.
This is not a call to ceaseless activity or to cramming one thing on to your to-do list. But it is a call to purposeful living. Enjoy the sunny summer days, but don’t forget that winter comes before you know it. Enjoy, smile, savor what you have been given. Don’t take the precious elixir of life and spill it on the side of the road. Whatever you do, do it on purpose. Don’t just drift. Life is too short for that.