Our Superstition of Time

10321_Mikhail-Nesterov-solovki-cropped-628x333

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

— Gollum’s riddle to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit


Time. It terrifies and preoccupies, captivates and desolates. We obsess over how to spend it, how to save it, how to use it, and how to gain it. To the busy man, time is his prison and his poverty, for he has no time.  To the leisurely man, it is his liberty and his wealth, since he has all the time in the world.

But all this is vanity (cf. Eccl 3:1-19). Why? Because time is not man’s to have. It is not a piece of property like a chair or a desk; nor can we possess it like money or clothing. We cannot have more or less time. We cannot have all or no time; we cannot “have” time at all.

In one of her books on prayer, Servant of God Catherine Doherty insists that “we must lose our superstition of time.” Her point is both provocative and profound: time is not ours to give or to receive; it’s not ours to have or to hold—and to think otherwise is to attribute to man a power he does not possess. It’s as superstitious as imagining that the health of my mother’s back depends upon my attentive avoidance of cracks in the sidewalk.

If we give up our superstitious belief in “time management,” we will come to see that, as Doherty delightfully notes, “God laughs at time.” Divine Providence encompasses all, sees all, knows all, orders all. In one eternal now, all things lie open before the all-knowing God. Nothing surprises him. Nothing inconveniences him. Nothing frustrates him.

God possesses time, and human beings are possessed by time. Let God be God, and let yourself be human. You don’t have to order the world—or even your own life—according to a detailed plan of your own making. Trust in the goodness of God’s plan for your life. Giving up the superstition of “our” time makes us available: available for prayer, available for charity, available for God, available for our neighbor. This is, at least in part, what it means to “render unto God what is God’s.” Let God laugh at time in your life. It may be the most liberating thing you ever do.

Image: Mikhail Nesterov, Solovki

You May Also Enjoy:

Email and the Holy Spirit I would guess that if you are the type of person who reads a blog, you are also the type of person who uses email. And if you use email, then it is a healthy bet that you have sometimes found yourself checking your email quite frequently, perhaps every hour or every ten minutes. For me, it got to a point in college where it seemed like I was checking my email every three minutes. If you think about it, most of our email is quite banal: another ma...
The Star-Spangled Banner and Symbols of Heaven The Star-Spangled Banner displayed permanently in the National Museum of American History is one of the most extraordinary artifacts of our nation’s first century. The Star-Spangled Banner, also known as the Great Garrison Flag is the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. It was this flag that inspired Francis Scott Key’s poem, which became our national anthem. The flag prominently lies in its own exhibit, but i...
“I Have Overcome the World” It is the mark of the epic hero to stare courageously into the face of his foul foe who is bent on death and destruction; the hero is bold even when obviously outmatched. This is also the mark of the saint, but here the enemy's gnashing teeth are generally spiritual rather than physical and the source of the saint’s mettle is found in Someone other than himself. Confronted with such a beast, it is the mark of our culture to flee, or worse, to ref...
The Potent Prayers of Mothers O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us. —Isaiah 26:12 In Rome’s beautiful Basilica di Sant’Agostino is the tomb, not of its namesake, St. Augustine, but of his mother, St. Monica. Monica’s role in the conversion of her son is well-known: he finally turned away from his misguided dualistic beliefs and was baptized, after his mother had spent years praying for him in groaning and tears, weep...