The Taser's Edge

The Blessings of Limitedness: Time

The title of this post references a larger thought, that “in the beginning” human beings were created as finite creatures, and God called it very good.  Given this fact (which I at least think is undeniable), why do we all find ourselves constantly wishing we didn’t have limits?

What if it we actually believed that it is a good thing that we are limited?  What if we even daily gave thanks for it?  Might we find it to be the case that our finiteness is for our blessing?

What if our limitedness in time was actually most excellent?

The reason I think about this in reference to Time is that recently, a few things have been added to my schedule.  A few hours here, a few hours there, and as often seems to happen to my structures, the added weight seemingly caused the whole thing to collapse.  I am doing the new things (some after-school tutoring with a handful of DPS grade-schoolers, participating in my church’s weekly staff meeting, some other church volunteer stuff), all of which I deeply enjoy, but the other regular things which I highly value (reading for pleasure, reading for study, praying the hours, physical exercise, healthy food preparation) have just lost their place.

Think about the way we talk about Time.  We often use the phrase “time constraints,” but I am lately convinced that we actually mean “time restraints,” as in chains and bondage.  For me at least, it is much more difficult to come up with an equally striking positive metaphor.  But here’s an attempt in the form of an analogy–Time:Humans::Soil:Plants.

Ignoring sea and hydroponic plants for the sake of a simpler metaphor, what if part of Time as our natural habitat is that Time is chock-full of nutrients for our human flourishing?  (Thank you, Andy Crouch, for the phrase “human flourishing.”)

To further the thought, here are some questions from my own experience:

  • Would I ever move forward in life if I could move backwards?
  • Would I ever make a single decision when I could just decide on every course of action?  (“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / And happy that I could travel both / And be one traveler / I am still lost in these frakkin’ yellow woods…”–Robert Frost, Time-Traveling Poet Laureate of the Twelve Colonies)
  • Outside of time, is it possible to be shaped by our decisions and actions?  (To explain, Time seems to be an integral part of how God forms us into the image of the Son through the power of the Spirit.  So the question could also be…)
  • Is it possible to become disciples or saints apart from Time?
  • Without Time, how much easier would it be to have the illusion of bringing about my own redemption and/or salvation?  (Is redemption possible in timeless reality?  With the possibility of the do-over, do I believe I need the second Adam to save me?)
  • Without Time, how much easier would it be to have the illusion of bringing about someone else’s salvation?

This last is a core question for me.  Serve others for just a little while (in my case, whether as a hospice chaplain or an after-school math and language arts tutor or a husband/friend/brother/son/nephew/you-name-the-relationship) and you simultaneously begin believing (a.) that you are the one on whom all the responsibility rests, and (b.) that there is no way that you can ever live up to that responsibility.

Time is the greatest possible refutation to this set of beliefs.  Everywhere we turn, we not only hear but experience, “You have limits.  You are not God.”  And that, like all of God’s creation, is a very good thing.  If this doesn’t remove some unnecessary weight from your shoulders, I’m not sure what will.

Bonus: Limitedness in time also helps us avoid situations like this one:

2 Comments so far
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This is one of the driving notions behind the Marvel Universe. In particular, this is the message I got from reading Secret Wars II. In SWII the Beyonder (A being from a dimension of his own creation who has limitless power) comes to earth to learn what it is to be human. At the end of the day he finds he can’t be human, because he is limitless. He confronts problems by instantly solving them without effort and in doing so discovers that at the heart of human accomplishment is the hurtle itself. To accomplish is to strive beyond and overcome obstacles. Without the limitation there is no sense of accomplishment, there is no personal growth.

Also, I can’t help but think of the Scarlet Witch, who has the power to reshape reality. Merely by having such power she can’t help but use it on a subconscious level to shape reality to her wishes. This gets out of and and she ends up reshaping all of reality resulting in the deaths of some of her friends and many mutants losing their powers forever. Now she must live in hiding afraid to do anything not knowing what is real independently of her and what she is creating.

To sum up our limitations as humans define our context. Like you said about time, if we had limitless time then time has no value or context. It is always infinity-o-clock and time for everything and nothing. Everything we do is defined by limitations. When we play games or sports the fun and excitement is almost all limitation based. A game you can just win is no fun. A story you can predict is no fun. Living through limitation provides all that we do with meaning and excitement.

But, then again I’d trade it all for the ability to time-travel and reshape reality to my liking.

Comment by Aaron Felder

Nice! (Even though I haven’t read the comics you’re talking about…yet.) I also like the last statement.

Comment by tasersedge

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