I have a clock that stopped working long ago and ever since it has been collecting dust on the floor of a closet in my house. About a year ago I pulled it out of the closet and tried to get it working again, but to no avail. I was going to throw it away, or at the very least drop it off at goodwill and label it as “broken,” but for some reason, I decided to put it on a shelf above my desk.
There was something about a stopped clock that intrigued me. Each day I picked my favorite moment and arranged the hands reflecting the time I wanted it to be, living in that moment until the next day. About the time I realized how silly such behavior was it dawned on me as time had run out for this clock, someday it would also run out for me. It was then I decided to renumber it so each hour equated to six years, making one twelve-hour rotation equivalent to 72 years. I picked 72 years because even though the average life expectancy in the United States is a bit longer, 72 is a safe bet, though honestly, none of us really know how long we have.
Every few months I move the hands forward indicating the progression of time so as I sit at the desk I see how much time I’ve spent as well as how much time might remain for me. I realize this might seem morbid to some, but I think it’s a good reminder of mortality. And honestly, I wish I had started doing this when I was much younger, if for no other reason than to have seen my life’s clock with the majority of time in the future, but as it is, my clock indicates most of my time lies in the past.
On those days when I move the hands I am forced to ask what I have done to make the expenditure of my life’s time meaningful since last they moved and what I will do before they move again. Most of the time I find my answers are disappointing, as I can waste a lot of time doing things that aren’t inherently meaningful. For instance, I can spend lots of time watching the Browns, (thankfully they aren’t any good this year so that temptation is gone), but I wonder if that is a good use of my time? I still enjoy watching the Cavs, but again I wonder if that is a great use of time? Now, I honestly don’t think those are inherently bad uses of time, mainly because we are created as social beings and often such things are ways in which we can connect with each other enjoying God’s creation as well as God-given human creativity, but I wonder if there is such a thing as too much time spent on such past-times?
The other day a number of high school students were at my house. After we talked and ate some pizza, they started running around looking for secret rooms (I don’t know why, but for some reason, they are convinced I have a secret room, somewhat akin to the bat-cave, hidden in my house, the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny). In the process of their search, they came across the clock. Certain it held the key to unlocking my supposed hidden room, they cornered me and questioned me about it. As I gave the explanation I could see the majority of the students were disappointed because it didn’t hold the key to finding and opening the bat-cave. But I also noticed there were a couple of students who appeared to understand and actually started thinking about life a little bit deeper, if only even for a moment. In either case, it didn’t take long before their search for the supposed room of hidden treasures continued.
As I was reading Psalm 39 today, I thought of that moment with the high school students, wondering if the hidden treasures they sought were not to be found in a secret room but on the face of the clock. What I mean is, I wonder if they will be like me and wait until the majority of their time is in the past before they start numbering their days? Sadly, I suspect most will put it off as long as possible, partly out of ignorance and partly because they don’t want to confront the sobering thoughts of mortality.
I also wonder if they did begin to measure their days, would they weigh their hopes and dreams against their mortality? Would they choose only those things with lasting significance? Would they look at the short term pleasures they can derive from sin and decide that long-term happiness is better? Would they, like the psalmist, ask God to grant them the wisdom to choose the right things and then the freedom to enjoy them before their time runs out?