A PASSAGE OF TIME
My bookshelves are all covered with dust. The windows open outward and they are gathering all the dust that arises as labourers hammer down the house alongside chip by chip; bit by bit. Eventually the house will be all gone, and the sun will shine through the gaping hole for a while. Eventually, after a sabbatical of barrenness, a new group of masons and labourers will arrive and construct an ugly concrete monster that we in Delhi delicately term as ‘builder’s flats.’
This is the third house that I have lived in this area and they have this one thing in common—they have had no landlords and the monthly rent has always been handed over to the widowed landlady. Most of the properties were constructed by the refugees who migrated into Delhi at partition time and subsequently purchased plots in what was then considered an area in the back of beyond. Now the landlords are largely dead and the few that are left are old and infirm. But the new trend of demolishing houses indicates that now perhaps the landladies are also beginning to disappear.
Most of these families had one or a maximum of two children. And in these days of mobility, those children are no longer around to live in these houses. There was a time when boys were meant to be there for the parents in the old age and thereafter look after the ancestral property, even though the girls would get married and go. But today, boys or girls, sons or daughters, it is all the same. I think of the people who built these houses barely thirty or forty years ago and held housewarming ceremonies to mark the occasions. Did they know that hammer and chisel would bring the structures down so soon?
Slaves To Time
I often think of the ravages of time these days. Time has such power over us that there is never enough of it. “Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away,” Isaac Watts wrote in his hymn on Psalm 90. We learn that all our days pass away; all we have is 70 or 80 years which pass like a dream in the night. Although we’d like more of it, we wish it away. We plan future holidays, dreaming. But, when on holiday, we think about what needs doing at home, wishing our lives away.
When children are tiny, we wish they’d grow up, get to school, then college, then jobs, then get married and have children, and the same for grandchildren, etc. Time! We cannot get away from it, we cannot control it, we cannot stop it; it devours it. We want more of it and we wish it away. The Apostle Paul talks about being “Slaves to the law.” I think we are slaves to time, the all powerful god of our lives.
The Greeks had two words to describe time—2 different kinds of time—chronos and xairos. Chronos refers to time as in clock (chronometer), chronicle, calendar, hours, days and months. Xairos is abstract and refers to opportunity time or fulfilment. The Hebrews had one word for time, but it was for xairos opportunity time, not clock/calendar time—time, not something to keep a track of with watch or calendar, but something that presents an opportunity that must be taken, like seed time and harvest time. Amos prophesied, “2 years before earthquake,” and Isaiah, “the year that King Uzziah died.” The prophets were not interested in days, months, years. When God called, it was His time, right time.
Solomon, spoken of as the wisest of wise men, made a stunning statement when speaking of God. A modern translation of Solomon’s statement reads, “From vanishing point to vanishing point You are God.” He was wise enough to realise that some subjects go beyond the human mind to comprehend. He was saying, “Think back in history and out in space as far as you can and there comes a point beyond which you cannot think.” Reasoning just runs out, vanishes. The same is true of thinking into the future and distant space. The mind reaches a vanishing point beyond which it cannot conceive of any point.
What do we know of eternity? It is beyond all imagination. But Jesus meets our need; when He speaks of eternity, He invites us to come home. A home is not beyond us; we understand what it is to go home. Furthermore, we all know what it is like to have a home prepared for us by someone who loves us. Jesus was leaving them; He was to pass through the agony of a cruel death; but this death was for them; it was by His death that He got the home ready. “I go to prepare a place for you.” But, more than that: because He rose from the dead, because He did exactly what we cannot do in conquering death, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself: that where I am, there ye may be also.”
That is eternity for you; it has a human face and it is the face of Jesus Christ. It has a feel, and the feel is of going home, of going to an entirely wonderful home, in the company of the One whom you admire and love beyond all others. Will we get there full of honours and achievements, and with the praise of men ringing in our ears? Well, hardly; there comes a point when those things are more of a hindrance than a help; we are not that good—it has taken all the efforts of the Saviour of the world to secure our welcome. His word to us is not, “Come in, you are so successful.” It is really, “Come in, failure as you are. Trust Me to see you home.”
We may be applauded in our time, but in the light of eternity, our lives are less impressive. Even the best life has its regrets, its failures, its follies, its sins. This is true of us all; it means that ultimately we cannot glory in ourselves. We must turn away from ourselves and seek God, ‘the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity’ (Isa.57:15). When we seek Him, however, we discover a miracle; we find that He has been seeking us, that He has made the first move. From out of eternity, into our time, accepting all its limitations and pains, has Jesus Christ come. His aim was to find us and bring us safely home to God.