Time is Relative

Readings: Psalm 90; Numbers 17:1-11; 2 Peter 3:1-8

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

From everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past,

Or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,

Like grass that is renewed in the morning;

In the morning, it flourishes and is renewed;

In the evening it fades and withers.

Psalm 90:1-6, NRSV

Young children don’t have much use for clocks or calendars. For them, time is how long it takes to get from breakfast to play time, or to walk from the front door to the playground. Time is how it is experienced.

From elementary school on, we are very aware of clocks. Time becomes the distance between the 12 and the 12. Seasons aren’t measured by the activities that we do in them as much as they are noted by where they fall on the calendar. But there’s something unreal about the clock-and-calendar concept of time that gets us to appointments on time: it’s not how time works in the largest sense. Post-Einstein, time is relative to the physical universe – much closer in reality to how children experience it. Perspective matters; where you are in the universe (or how fast you might be traveling) affects time. That simplistic version of time we left behind with diapers and naps turns out to be the simple truth of reality at its most profound.

Psalm time is God’s time: Real, related to how, where, and when we experience it. The decade that seems endless for a twenty-something and a passing fancy for a ninety-something, is just a blink of an eye for God.

I think this psalm is meant to remind us that our time is limited. There are a few precious days in even the longest life, and none of them are repeatable. This would be a bleak reality if it weren’t for the first line: God is our home, our dwelling place. We only last for a short period of time, but we return to the love that created us. We go home. And if we are wise, we realize we never really left in the first place…

Gracious God, grant us the wisdom to fill our days with love and our lives with your holy presence. Amen.

2 thoughts on “Time is Relative

  1. bill Albritton

    “God is our dwelling place” how wonderful to be reminded of that–how affirming and grounding. Just what I need as we begin Advent–and your last words sent me back to T.S. Eliot:
    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”
    ― T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

    1. Johnna Post author

      Thanks, Bill. I love that quote and hadn’t thought of it in years. It goes so well with Advent. Peace, Johnna


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