With every new baby, I’ve tried to soak up the moments. I’ve tried to slow down time in my head and enjoy the precious human in front of me – absorb every scent, texture, movement, and memory. But my attempts at holding back the passing of time are sand sifting through my fingers. Everything goes by so fast. I can only hold it so long. One moment, my baby enters this world and is placed on my belly, the next, she is posing for a picture holding a college degree. What they say is true: “It all goes by so fast.” And there’s nothing I can do about it.
I’m nowhere near the college picture pose with my children, but even in my six short years of being a mom, I feel the fleeting nature of time. I feel it as I clean out old baby clothes in the basement for donations. I feel it as life gets fuller with more children and therefore busier. I feel it as I look at old pictures on my phone or past memories on Facebook. I’m struggling with my children growing up and myself getting older. Ultimately, I’m wrestling with my mortality. King Solomon knew that “A generation goes, and a generation comes. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises” (Eccl 1:4-5),for “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Ps 144:4). These are not meant to be depressing truths, but truths meant to elevate our eyes to see our great God.
In Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah receives devastating news from the prophet Isaiah: the King will soon die and will not recover. “Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isa 38:2-3). In turn, God tells Hezekiah that “he has heard his prayer and seen his tears.” He promises to add fifteen years to his life and give him a sign of this promise. In verse 8, God says, “Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” The Hebrew meaning of this verse is uncertain, but we can see that God is in control over the shadow cast by the setting sun. We serve a God who can turn back time and add years to a death sentence.
In Joshua 10, we see a God who can make time stand still. Joshua and his army were up against the Amorites, and before entering battle, the Lord told Joshua that he would fight for him (Josh 10:8). After throwing the enemy army into a panic and hurling giant hailstones down at them, God answered the prayers of Joshua by holding the sun and moon in balance (Josh 10:12-13). “The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel” (Josh 10:13-14).
We want to be like God, don’t we? We want to turn back time, get more time, and even make time stop. But instead, we’re forced forward, pushed along by clocks and calendars. We can’t master time or gain control over the passing moments. For we ourselves are but a mere passing breath.
I’ve never felt more helpless as I do when I see my children grow and change, with every inch gained and recorded every year. But it’s good for me.
It’s good for me to cry out with the Psalmist and say,
“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Ps 39:4-5)
It’s good to wrestle with my own mortality, and then accept that I’m not God. Owning this truth puts me in my rightful place as a created being, where I belong, and when I’m where God designed me to be, then I have peace and joy. Seeing myself rightly, and God rightly, helps me grow in holiness. And as I continue to wrestle with and accept this truth that he is God and I am not, peace comes into my heart more and more, and my awe of God grows, which in turn causes my holiness to grow.
Ican’t go back to my Facebook memory from five years ago. I only have so much time, and then it keeps moving on. I’m constrained and constricted. But God is not. He’s outside of time and ruling over it.
But, as C.S. Lewis says, “It is really, I suggest, a timeless truth about God that human nature, and the human experience of weakness and sleep and ignorance, are somehow included in his whole divine life.”
The God, who rules and reigns over time, entered into time and experienced the same frustrations with time as his own people. He knows we are but dust (Ps 103:14-16). He just wants us to know it too.
This originally appeared on Morning by Morning >>