Make the most of your time. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
People keep track of time in different ways; but for me, nothing beats an old-fashioned pendulum clock. The kind that you wind up with a key every month or so. That tik tok the passing seconds like a metronome. That chime the passing hours with such regularity that it brings order to whatever is happening around it. If you ever wondered how one works, here’s a great explanation.
The picture above is of the pendulum clock that hangs on our kitchen wall, a fixture in my home for almost my entire marriage.
I bought it in 1984 as a Christmas present for Pam, when we lived in Beech Island, SC. The holidays are busy times for pastors, but I managed a hurried trip to a shopping center across the river in Augusta, GA and found the clock in a department store. It was mounted in a display along with more expensive models and caught my eye, not just for the lower price but also because of its compactness. I knew just the place on the wall of our home where it would fit. It would help me make the most of my time.
Our home was a small parsonage owned by the church I was serving as a pastor. We had moved there a couple of years before—our first ministry after graduating from seminary—and quickly fell in love with the place and the people. The wall clock was the perfect accessory for our new home. Fitting neatly into our cramped den, we could hear it sound the passing hours throughout the house.
When we moved to Charleston, SC a few years later, the clock went with us. It was a new season of life for us, and responsibilities multiplied. Young children. A larger ministry. Personal challenges. Financial struggles. Like young parents everywhere, there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. It was one of those seasons of life where it was hard to make the most of your time.
But time didn’t slow down, and our wall clock didn’t let me forget it. As I studied early in the morning at the kitchen table, the clock steadily ticked on. We heard it chiming hours through the night.
When we later moved to North Carolina, I insisted on handling the clock myself because I didn’t want to risk damage at the hands of the movers. By then it had become, if not an heirloom (it was too inexpensive for that) at least a trusted companion. There’s much to be said about keeping time with the circling of hands around a clock face instead of glowing numbers staring at you from a screen.
Our kids grew up and moved into adult lives. Pam and I saw our respective vocations prosper. Life was good. But as time went on, I began to notice a peculiar thing that many others have noticed. Each successive year felt as if it went by faster than the one before. The clock on the wall didn’t beat any differently, but the hours it kept track of seemed to pick up speed. When that begins to happen, it’s hard to make the most of your time.
I read somewhere that the reason time seems to pass faster when we’re older is a matter of proportion. For a five-year-old, a year is one-fifth of a lifetime. But for a fifty-year-old, a year is one-fiftieth of a lifetime, a much shorter percentage of the whole. I blogged previously on the nature of time and how God is over and above our experience of it.
Today we live back in South Carolina, and the clock hangs on our kitchen wall. It continues its service even though—like Pam and me—it’s grown older and has a little trouble keeping as precise a time as it used to. I find that trait more endearing than frustrating and don’t mind adjusting the hands every week or so in order to keep the mechanism on track. I also have to wind it more frequently—what started out as a 35-day clock is now more like a 25-day clock. I guess you could make the same point by pointing out that the 10-minute miles I could run as a twenty-five-year-old are closer to 20-minute strolls today.
But the clock still chimes. Early most mornings I sit at the kitchen table reading and writing, accompanied by its steady ticking, a comforting and familiar sound. As Pam and I fix supper in the evenings, it lets us know when it’s six o’clock and time to eat. We often Facetime our grandchildren while sitting at the kitchen island just below it.
The wall clock never lets me forget that time is steady and unrelenting and inescapable. We’re all creatures of time and locked in its grasp. That’s true for me and Pam, and for our children and our grandchildren and all who follow them. It’s true for you, too. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of your time.
But that doesn’t make time an enemy. It makes time a gift. The passing hours and days and years are opportunities to love others, to do good work, to enjoy the blessings of life. Most of all, to experience the love and grace of God. That’s what the Bible means when it says to use time wisely.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
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