Friday, September 30, 2005

The one about God and Time and subtle excuses for my constant disregard of clocks

This was written in Montana, when I first started a nifty little book called A Sideways Look At Time by one Jay Griffths. Miss Griffiths writes like Brennan Manning, if Mr. Manning were a postmodern feminist and hated Christianity. 1.5 years later, I am still on page 253 (of about 400), but that says nothing of the quality of her work -- just of my inability to consistently finish books not written for children.


Into The Void

Time is a funny thing. This past year has been flying by (yes, I still measure years from September-August), and I just don't get it. In school, I had all these false measuring sticks in the form of deadlines for papers, exams, and holidays. When I had an impending project due, time just seemed to drag mericilessly. The five years I spent at college seemed equal in length to the previous 18, spent mostly creating fictional sports teams with only my baseball card collection and an over-active imagination.

But now, post-college, things are just breezing by; events flash by like street lamps from car windows. I can barely hold onto moments before they become memories. I hope this isn't how life after school is like, because I'll be wearing diapers again in no time.

Time is such a fluid measurement, and so subject to wherever we happen to be when we take notice of it. Before global Westernization, cultures had very different ways of telling time (and some still do). Most of these relied on nature based measurements for time: the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the cycle of seasons and yearly changes in plant life and animal migration.

Like good modernists, we've "scienitificied" (a new word!) these measurements, so that sunset happens at a different "time" every night. Sunset is now an event, not an actual time of day. The second is a precise measurement that now has something to do with atomic oscillation (don't ask me). As little as two hundred years ago, we barely used for the second. Now it's what drives our work, our competitions, our entertainment, our everything.

That God Guy Is Always Showing Up Late To Meetings

I wonder what God thinks of all this. Sure, theologically speaking, God "invented" the 7-day week, but before that.... Were there heavenly weeks? Did it matter? Will it matter in eternity? Funny questions, sure. But as far as the present goes, how does God relate to our sense of time?

We often talk about God being outside of time and space, as if he were cut off from the limitations that they present. God is bigger than space, because all the matter and empty space in the universe could not contain him. God is bigger than time, because he existed before it existed; he exists eternally in spite of it; and he will continue to exist after it (if there is an "after it"). But I think we're missing something when we talk about God and time in this manner. Mainly, God probably doesn't experience time and space like we do, because he doesn't understand them like we do.

Think of how children understand time. Seconds, minutes, hours, even weeks and months don't mean much to a child. They experience everything in the eternal now; concepts of past and future are hard for them to grasp. Five minutes from now might as well be five days from now in their convoluted yet beautiful sense of logic.

Now, if you're okay with me doing this, let's suppose (just for a second) that Christ's love for the little ones extended to their understanding of time, as well as faith. Remember, for eternity past God the Son never worried about time. But as a human, people were constantly demanding for his presence at a certain time and a certain place. Adding to the urgency was his own sense of mortality and impending death that would come to fruition not three years into his public ministry. Jesus, come heal my son before he dies. Jesus, come sit with these publicans before tax season. Jesus, come talk to these prostitutes before the next night passes. Jesus, meet me here tonight so that my fellow Pharisees don't find out who I'm meeting with. Jesus, come die before Passover. Even the Trinity could not escape giving time-based commands to the Son. Excluding all the other difficulties that came with God becoming man, this alone would have been enough to drive any normal person insane.

Christ might have related to children quite a bit on this level. They ignored time because it didn't exist in a concrete sense to them. They cared little for it, and never expected to care for it either. Let's suppose, once again, that this is just a little glimpse into how God views time. Maybe God doesn't so much exist outside of time, than he just doesn't understand time like we do.

Can't Fight The Fever or Why Doesn't Anybody Really Understand Me?

Now hold on. I'm not saying we get something God can't, I'm just suggesting that we experience time in such a way, that God really has no use for it. Think about it, we wouldn't say that God knows what it's like to pinch a candy bar from the local grocier, because we hold to the belief that God has never done such a thing. We also wouldn't say that God knows what it's like to physically consummate a marriage, because God's never been married, let alone had a girlfriend. Couldn't we also say that God doesn't get our understanding of time because he doesn't understand time like we do? Maybe?

I don't know. Whatever you feel, I think it's interesting to try to understand that God doesn't really exist apart from time as much as he understands time in a radically different way than we do. If we met someone who existed from all eternity past (and guess what, we have), we'd probably think his way of going about things crazy and impractical (maybe even unjust or unfair?). God is outside of time, not because he physically resides outside of its sphere, but because he probably "gets" time in ways that we cannot even fathom.

God and time? To be frank, who cares? I'm pretty sure he doesn't. (God that is, not frank.)

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