By Martin E. Willoughby, Jr.
When I was young, my parents would hang up a special Christmas decoration for my sister and me to count the days until Christmas. Each day we were allowed to untie a candy cane to celebrate being one day closer to that magical morning. I remember that the month of December would drag on forever. It seemed like December 25th would NEVER arrive. As an adult, I have found the opposite to be true. The Christmas season is simply a blur. As with this year, I can’t believe another year has passed so quickly. As I look at my ninth-grade daughter, Ally, who seems all grown up, I can’t believe when I started writing this column she was just in kindergarten!
Much has been written about the sense that as we get older, time seems to speed up. Psychologist William James, in his 1890 text Principles of Psychology, wrote that, “As we age, time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by fewer and fewer memorable events. When the passage of time is measured by “firsts” (first kiss, first day of school, first family vacation), the lack of new experiences in adulthood causes the days and weeks to smooth themselves out.”
Modern scholars have further studied this topic and put forth all kinds of theories about why time seems to speed up as we age. However, we don’t need to go much further than Scripture for a sense of perspective about time.
David reminds us in Psalm 39:5-6, “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!” He further said, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). I think a lot about James’ reflection on time when he said, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
As I reflect on the Scriptures, I realize the preciousness of each day. I think about how every day is a bonus day. I am a creature of habit. I like my routine and can quickly get out of sorts if it goes awry. However, that routineness can also become mundane. I can easily shy away from new experiences or new challenges.
As William James noted, I tend to lose the sense of wonder about life as there seem to be fewer and fewer “firsts.” I remember as a teenager my parents encouraging me to savor the moments of life and not to be in a hurry to grow up. They wanted me to enjoy each stage of the journey and the firsts that come along.
What is exciting to me about a life in Christ is the potential for something extraordinary to happen in the course of our normal day. Often, it is a matter of just being available. It is easy to forget that we can experience the presence of Christ in the routine of life.
While written over 300 years ago, Brother Lawrence in his timeless book, The Practice of The Presence of God, gives us a guide on how to walk with the Lord one day at a time. Each day we have opportunities. We have choices in how we treat people, whether we pray for others, or whether we share the joy we know in Christ.
Each day is full of possibilities. While we can’t slow down the clock that seems to be increasing with speed, we can choose how we spend our days. I hope I will spend them wisely in 2015.
Happy New Year!