It is just the reflection of the giant timepiece on the wall behind me – one with hands that hang, useless, despite the hum of its inner workings. But the juxtaposition of the glowing face with the dark alley is arresting. Even spectral.
Time is watching.
I find time to be a hard task master when I’m on the road. The carpet under my feet in this Manhattan hotel room is an appropriate visual. It’s so easy to be caught up in the mechanism of one’s work. Details demand focus. And days of focused attention can start to feel like the grind of gears – like Charlie Chaplin’s famous scene in Modern Times – we enter the machinery early in the week and get spit out at the end.
So I try to put into my travels occasional walks, like today’s ramble in Manhattan, lit by a glorious afternoon sun.
It’s my way to wake up. To break loose from the grind. To become aware of my surroundings, of the people around me. And today, not surprisingly, to notice the watchful eyes of clocks.
Scripture reminds us that time matters. We should be aware of not only the present moment but the remaining hours, days, months. Paul writes,
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)
His point is striking, and I try to process it. Paraphrased, he says “Wake up because we’re getting closer to glory!” This is counter-clockwise to how I think. For the last twenty years, I’ve had a keen sense of days winding down, of time running out. The diminishing of life. Years ticking away from a finite calendar.
But this is winding up! Anticipation drives Paul’s thoughts on time, like preparations for a long awaited celebration. What’s ahead of us should sharpen our focus, because all of these moments are adding up to something amazing.
My last stop today helps me imagine this. The Oculus is a new, striking structure that houses the World Trade Center transport hub. Inside, the soaring walls lean in toward a strip of glorious sky. One can’t help but to look up. It’s a great picture of our lives, leading ever upward.
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss,
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood;
When every thing that is sincerely good
And perfectly divine,
With truth, and peace, and love, shall ever shine
About the supreme throne
Of Him, t' whose happy-making sight alone
When once our heav'nly-guided soul shall climb,
Then, all this earthly grossness quit,
Attired with stars, we shall for ever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee, O Time.
John Milton, Time
You, Lord, have placed us within the bounds of time, but call us to live eternally even now. Forgive us when we get caught in the gears and forget where we’re headed. Remind us of the importance of each remaining moment.