Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Relativity of Time

Beyond his trademark theory of relativity, Albert Einstein made this insightful observation: "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity."

There are days when I seem to be constantly busy with few check marks on my to-do list to show for it. More often, I accomplish the regular expectations of my daily routine with little time to spare between waking and going to sleep. And then there are rare days, like today, when I have a brief moment to sit down and think, "Wow, I don't have anything I really need to do right now." When this happens, I usually assume I must be forgetting about something - and a quick check of my daily planner confirms my suspicions. Today was an unusual day in that I accomplished all I needed to do and still had time to spare.

Over the course of the day, I washed, dried, folded, and put away a load of laundry, as I do every weekday. I changed the sheets on my bed, gave the main living areas a quick once-over with the vacuum, and updated my grocery budget Excel sheet. I tended to the regular everyday tasks of devotions, baths, meals, snacks, diapers, potty breaks, toy squabbles, and cleaning up from all of the above. And on top of this, the children and I were blessed with a visit from my mom.

Since she has to drive more than an hour each way to see us, weekday visits with Grammy are treasured times of fun for the boys and me. We shared our latest news, read books, climbed on the playground equipment, played two rounds of Memory Match, and built impressive structures using large quantities of Duplo blocks (the big Lego bricks - we just call them Legos, actually). Grammy adhered to her usual custom of bringing muffins and bagels for morning snack and ordering sandwiches for lunch while the children were napping. She and I had time to eat, talk, and browse the Internet together before the boys woke up ready to play Legos, as I had promised we would after rest time. In his excitedly three year old way, Donny repeatedly told Grammy, "It's awesome that you are still here so that you can play Legos with us!" Maybe Rome was not built in a day, but the Great Wall of Lego was constructed in less than an hour.

And somehow I still had a moment between my mom's departure and dinnertime to sit down with no pressing obligations looming overhead. The peace has continued into the evening; now that the children are sleeping, I am blogging, and there seems to be a good chance I will even get to sleep myself before midnight. Relatively speaking, this has been a very pleasant and productive day.

Based on my recent observations, my updated Theory of Relativity for Moms would read something like this:

"Wait for a toddler to finish using the toilet, or for a preschooler to put his shoes on when you are late for an appointment, or for dinner to warm up when your hungry family is waiting, and a few minutes seem like an hour. Engage yourself in your work at home and in enjoying your family, and an hour seems like a few minutes. And reflect back on the time that has passed since you brought home your firstborn, and thousands of days seem like less than a year. THAT'S relativity."

And where is God in all this? He is outside of time. Peter reminds us:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
2 Peter 3:8

I find it fascinating that God is not bound by the constraints we know as minutes and hours and days. But while we are in the world, He gives us our lives one day at a time. Each day is a new chance to grow in grace and knowledge, a fresh opportunity to submit to His perfect will, a blank slate of twenty-four hours to use for His glory. I must ever be conscious that time, however relative, is limited. Whether it flies or crawls or passes pleasantly in the company of loved ones, I can offer each moment of my day as a sacrifice to the Lord. When I see Him face to face, the quantity of time I spent on earth will not matter. He will simply count whether I lived each day being rightly related to Jesus Christ. Now THAT'S relativity.

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