October 10, 2013

Time: A Vanishing Dream? by Sharon Espeseth

How difficult it is for our finite minds to comprehend how short life on earth really is, especially compared to the infinite years eternity offers! Recently, I saw an object lesson on this contrast. A deacon at Holy Trinity Catholic Church west of Edmonton took out a spool of cord from a shelf under the pulpit. Holding one end of the cord, The Deacon gave the spool to a young altar server. As instructed, the girl walked backwards as far as she could, unwinding the string as she went.

The Deacon then pinched about a centimetre of the cord he was holding to give us an inkling of how short life on earth is compared to eternal life. Admitting limitations in showing correct proportions, the speaker did, however, make his point, and it has stayed with me. Life on earth, even for our long-living elders is short. We occasionally need this message, so we are conscious about walking wisely on this earth in preparation for the life that is to come.

The gospel that Sunday was the parable Jesus told about the rich man who lived luxuriously while the poor man, Lazarus, lay at his gate longing for even the crumbs fallen from the rich man's table. One lived in comfort while the other suffered misery. When the two men passed from this life, their comfort levels were completely reversed. Getting Abraham's attention, the rich man begged for a mere drop of water to be delivered by Lazarus. Abraham pointed out that no one could cross the great chasm dividing their respective dwellings.

Throughout The Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew, Chapter 5 to 7, Jesus tells us how to live our faith. He reminds us to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. He asks, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Although we don't need to worry about how short life is, we do need to be aware that life on earth is finite and that we will be accountable for what we do with our time while we're here.

In the back of an old hymnal, my dad had noted an old Swedish song. While reflecting on The Deacon's sermon and Scripture passages along this line, I thought of a song written in 1874 by C. A. Stenholm. Here's the first verse.

"Time is as swift as a vanishing dream,
Year after year rolls away.
Life rushes on like a fast flowing stream,
Short are the hours of its day."

I think Dad was about my age when he would have written the title in Swedish at the back of the 1950 edition of this hymnal. Though Dad has passed, I can see him in my mind's eye solemnly singing this song. If I adjust my memory's lens, I can see my Grandpa Augustson pondering the  words while singing in Swedish.                                                                                                      
"Be careful, then, how you live," Paul tells the Ephesians, "not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."

No matter what our age, we need to know our days are numbered and God has work for us to do. Let's be thankful that today, and every day, is a day God has made for us.

I will close with the following prayer from Psalm 71, which is generally attributed to David.

"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, 
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your might to all who are to come."

Clock Sky Image by Luigi Diamanti for FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Thanks for this excellent reminder of the fleeting nature of our earthly lives. It seems to be the natural way of things that we find it difficult to conceive of this when we're young. When we are older, and we realize that most of our lives are behind us, I think we are more able to stop and consider eternity.

  2. I agree with you Marcia. I am at the stage of my own life when I am more conscious of the concept of eternity, but it's something like saving for retirement. Often people wish they had started saving for retirement early. We need to put "funds" in our eternal bank account earlier too.


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