... our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)
My wife and I were having a conversation recently about how time seems to go by so much quickly the older we get. Laura pointed out something about the reason for that phenomenon that I had never really considered. "When you're six," she said, "a year is one-sixth of your life. When you're 36, a year is just one-thirty-sixth."
That truth may seem obvious to you. (Unfortunately for her, Laura is stuck with the thankless task of pointing out the obvious to me!) But obvious or not, it explains a lot, doesn't it? No wonder it seems to take so long to get to the age of 18, and then before you know it, you're staring 40 in the face. No wonder it seems that there's less time between Christmases each year. Relatively speaking, there is.
I remember as a kid of 8 or 9 calculating how old I would be in the year 2000. That seemed so far away and 32 seemed so old. Now it's 2005 and I'm 36 and it seems like not much more than a blink. I've been married 13 years. My son is 6. Amazing how quickly the years roll by now; I was just getting used to writing 2004.
Time flies, but we live in a culture that tries to deny it. Like no other society in the history of the human race, we try to create the illusion that time is standing still. We're so frightened of aging that for Christmas we're giving each other gift certificates for plastic surgery. Everyone now seems to be working out and eating right, but for a lot of us it seems that the motive is more about looking good than about being healthy. One of today's most pressing questions of medical ethics is the morality of using stem cells from aborted babies to do research on disease. The argument pressed into service most often to support the practice is that it could save lives. But, does saving lives make anything and everything ethical? In a culture that resists the reality of the passing of time, the answer increasingly seems to be yes.
For what it's worth, more and more I think it's vanity to pretend that years don't pass, that hair doesn't thin and gray, and that middles don't thicken. Look at your calendar. Look at the days flying by and admit it. Time is passing. You're getting older. Your kids are growing up and your parents are aging. The clock is ticking.
We must not buy into society's attitude toward the passage of time. Certainly not us! Certainly not believers! We don't fear death, do we? We aren't afraid of a little gray hair, are we? We believe, do we not, that God is in control of our lives and that the passing of years doesn't put us out of range of his love, grace, and power?
Maybe that's it. Maybe that's why so many of us fear the passing of time just like the pagans do. Maybe it's because we're not looking forward to the salvation God has promised us. Maybe our hopes are pinned too much upon achieving success or reaching our goals or realizing our dreams, and as time passes, we begin to worry that it's running out on us.
We're half right. Time is running out. But, it's running out on this age dominated too often by human frailty, pain, and tragedy. It's running out on this fallen world. With each passing moment, we're closer to a moment-less eternity with a Father who loves us, a Son who died for us, and a Holy Spirit who transforms us. Time is running out on hatred, bringing God's perfect love that much closer. Time is running out on sin, placing holiness within our grasp. Time is running out on violence, bringing the only lasting peace. Time is running out on tears, bringing endless joy. Time is running out on sickness, bringing wholeness. Time is running out on death, bringing empty graves. The time is coming when you'll never have to wonder again if God is really there or if he cares, because his glory will be your sun. Salvation is coming, and with every passing year ... week ... day, it's closer than it was when you first put your hope in him.
So go ahead, turn that page in your calendar. Try to smile when you see a gray hair or a new laugh line. Those things aren't signs of an approaching end. They're heralds of an imminent beginning. That for which you've hoped is much closer! There's no need to be afraid! Salvation is nearer!