The New Year is a great time to ask, “What is time?”
Thinking people in every generation have tried to define time. Benjamin Franklin, for example, called time “the stuff that life is made of.” William Penn, another one of the men who helped give birth to our great Nation, said, “Time is whatever we want most, but what we use worst.” Albert Einstein said, “Time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it.” Thanks Prof, but I’m still confused.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines time as “a continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future.” The dictionary makes some sense at an intellectual level, but it does little to change my life.
Does science have answers to questions about time? Stephen Hawking is a widely regarded Cambridge University professor and considered by many to be the most brilliant theoretical physicist on the planet. He tried to define time in his best-selling book The History of Time. Even Hawking had a difficult time wrapping his brain around the concept. The best he could do is link the beginning of time around the “big bang” and the end of time to something he predicts will happen in the future called the “big crunch.”
What about the Church? Can anyone in the Church define time in a way that does more than make me scratch my cranium and say, “Wow! That was deep”? Augustine, one of the most brilliant theologians in the Early Church was honest enough to admit his inability to define time. “What is time?” he asks. “If nobody asks me I know; but if I were desirous to explain it to someone that should ask me, I know not.”
When all is said and done, I prefer Dr. Stephen Olford’s definition of time. Are you ready for this? Olford, a humble preacher, says, “Time is a fragment of eternity given by God to man as a solemn stewardship.” That’s it. A fragment of eternity. A solemn stewardship. Now there’s a definition of time that does more than make sense. It also inspires me to embrace every minute from God as a sacred trust.
Rudyard Kipling developed his thoughts about time into a poem that’s worth pondering as we start the New Year.
I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,
But it’s up to me to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it,
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it.