I don’t remember where I first heard this quote from Geoffrey Chaucer, “Time waits for no man,” but I do know it resonates more today than whenever I first heard it. The original quote states that not only does time not wait for anyone, but it also claims, “Time and tide wait for no man.” This word tide refers to the natural phenomenon of the rising and falling of the ocean, which, like time, cannot be controlled by man, or should I say in my case, by woman.
The Quest for Control
I have spent way too much of my life trying to control people, circumstances, and even life, for that matter. In all of my episodic roles as a controller, if I’m being honest, I must admit that time is the one thing I’ve tried to control over pretty much everything else.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything.” The problem with time, however, is that it does not stand still. Not for me. Not for you. Not for anyone. No matter what may be happening in life, good or bad, time continues to tick away, and not always at the pace we’d like. When I was younger it seemed as though the important years couldn’t come fast enough.
As I’ve gotten older, however, it seems that the days, months, and even years are moving at record-breaking speed. As I celebrated sixty-five last year, I found myself wondering and even saying aloud at my birthday celebration, “Where has the time gone?” I ended my birthday speech with that very somber question, but brought life back to the celebration by answering that I had spent the time making good friends like those who were present. Although this was true, I have to admit, that’s only half the story.
Time has allowed me to be blessed with the opportunity to make many good friends, yet I, like many people my age, look back on life and realize that I have spent most of it rushing away that time.
As teens, we couldn’t wait for those double digits, or to become a “tween.” Then it was to be a teenager, then 18, and then of course the big 21. In our 20’s we found ourselves wanting to be older, thinner, happier, or sadly, anything other than what we were at that moment in time. The ebbs and flows of life can create an illusion that whatever season we may be in, there will always be more time to do more or to become more.
The Effects of the Pandemic
Just a few short years ago, as if living through a pandemic wasn’t enough, the thought that there will always be enough time to do life as planned was snatched from the world with little or no warning. Suddenly, sadly, for many who planned to travel to visit family or friends, or like me, to go on that long-awaited vacation to Italy, or to visit their aging parent or loved one in a nursing home next week, or even the next day, time didn’t wait. One way or another during COVID, if in the past we thought we could control time, we all had a rude awakening.
What a wake-up call it was for all ages when the world and even time did indeed seem to stop. In the midst of what I called a divine interruption, God used a pandemic to make us all aware that our times truly are in his hands. While we tried in many ways to keep life moving as normal, no matter how we tried to keep it moving, time stood still. Not only were our plans disrupted, but we also had no control over when or whether life would ever return to what we knew as normal.
While others tried to hold on to things as they were, I found myself crying out to God, “Lord please teach us. Teach your Church what you are asking of us during this divine interruption!” Before the pandemic, things in my life seemed to have been moving so quickly that I had been praying that time would stand still for just a minute so I could catch up, or at least catch my breath. And then all of sudden, out of nowhere, as if my prayer had been answered, time stood still.
I have often wondered since the pandemic if God had allowed it for the purpose of slowing us down. The question is, did we take advantage of what the Scripture calls times of refreshing given to us by God? God often gives us the needed breaks to refresh and restore our lives so that we can be prepared when time returns to its normal pace.
Not in any way to minimize the many horrific effects of COVID, including the millions who died, I believe that for those of us who were spared, we were given the gift of time. As stated in the book of Ecclesiastes, while it seemed that time was standing still, the pandemic opened its doors for some to be born. My two-and-a-half-year-old great-granddaughter will forever be known as a COVID baby.
A Time for Every Purpose
God knew that it was a time when many would die. It was a time to plant and a time to uproot. Although time stood still, there were still those who were killed, while God chose for others to be healed. In 2020 I believe it was a time to tear down the walls of injustice and in return, it was a time to rebuild the beloved community. It was a time to weep and a time to laugh.
Collective grief in many ways remains as we mourn the loss of many lives, but also the loss of life as we knew it. For some, it was a time to dance while for others it was a time to let go of things of the past. It may have looked bleak, however it was time to collectively embrace the future. For many, it was a time to search for the meaning of life, for others, it was a time to count their losses and move on.
It was time for keeping what was needed while throwing away what wasn’t. This was a season for tearing apart to allow God to repair our brokenness. It was a time for being quiet and then it was a time for speaking the truth to the powers that be. It was a time for loving our brother and a time for hating whatever God hates. The pandemic of 2020 was a time for war, but ultimately it was a time where in the midst of it all, God gave us his peace.
While rushing life, I have learned that on this side of eternity time is all we have to become all we were created by God to be. Although I choose not to live with regrets, I often find myself wishing I had spent the time I’d been given more wisely. Now that I recognize that time was a gift given by God, I’m sorry I didn’t always regard it as such. I’m even more sorry I wasn’t a better steward of the gift of time I was given. Thankfully, God not only gives us the gift of time, but he also says in his Word that he redeems time.
For that reason, despite any regrets, I can instead be grateful that God can stop time from being my enemy. Even though time may not wait for anyone, thankfully God does. He loves us so much that he can halt time while he waits for us to catch our breath. While he waits for us to become. While he waits for us to fulfill our purpose in life. When no one else can, God can, and will, make time stand still.
“God can stop time from being my enemy.”
I love this redemptive thought, a solid reminder that my time, like everything else, is in his hands. May we find grace not to wrench it away and try to manage it without him!