It strikes me that we don't give much consideration to how long some of our earliest ancestors lived and what that "looked like." Take the oldest recorded ancestor, Methuselah, who lived 969 years, just short of 1000. Now that's a lot of clocks to punch, football games to watch, and bad investments to make. Even Man One, Adam, lived 930 years. Imagine that -- he had at least 800 years, and likely more, just to remember that tragic mistake he made with the apple. After Seth was born at 130, what did he do for the next 800 years? For you women, let's make this a bit more real: at 930 years for Adam, that's 1,018,350 meals to prepare and a whole lot of laundry to wash and hang on the line.
I'm pondering all this aloud on the way to church tonight, and I'd have to say no one is really interested in what Adam was doing all those years. One member of the family is doing Bible study, one is doing homework, and one is drinking ginger ale and practicing burping. They are not impressed.
Nevertheless, I think there's something to learn here about the way we should view time. Just for a moment, consider what it might be like to live 969 years like Methuselah. Lots of things that seem so important become a lot less time-sensitive. Did you fix the toilet, honey? Nope, I'll get to it, next year maybe, well, what the heck, maybe in a few years. We've got plenty of time, right?
You think we should start a college fund for Seth? Nope. Plenty of time to think about that. Suspect he won't leave and cleave for awhile yet, maybe be around here until he's at least 75 or so. Plenty of time to do that, you know. Let the boy be a kid for a while, like maybe a few decades at least.
Really, when you live 969 years, or maybe more, you begin to have some sense (in a crude way, of course) of what eternity might feel like. There is less urgency. Less hastening to do it all. When Seth needs a good father-son chat, well drop the staff where it is and listen for a few hours, you know. That's a kairos moment -- quality time. There's time to take a good look at things too, to reflect on God's purposes in the world, to remember what matters, to listen for God's voice. Lived unto God, life could be slower and more gracious an existence, with plenty of time to settle in God's goodness.
Of course, because of the fateful choice of Adam, a long life not lived unto God can be, at its worse, 969 years to do evil, to cheat, and lie, and steal, and worse, or, at very least, it could be a long, seemingly unending, and tiresome existence. You wonder how many took their own lives rather than live out their days in such unyielding nihilism. No wonder God limited our days to 120 years.
I think it's when we have a kairos moment that we step outside of time for a moment. Time stays still in pure joy. Like the first time I heard "Good Vibrations" or "Roundabout." I had to remind myself to breathe. Living as long as they did, maybe Methuselah, Adam, or Enoch (for sure) knew that more than me, that sense of timelessness, that knowing life from the standpoint of the Creator of time for just a moment, a breath.
There's a short story by Wendell Berry called "Making It Home," featured in his book entitled Fidelity: Five Stories. A young soldier, Art Rowanberry, is returning home from the Great War to his home in the hills of Kentucky, pondering all he had seen as well as what he might find at home. Coming over the last hill, he sees his father and brother plowing the field, and they finally see him too. After a few hand shakes and repeated "Well now"s from his father, there is this:
And then he heard his father's voice riding up in his throat as he had never heard it, and he saw that his father had turned to the boy and was speaking to him:
"Honey, run yonder to the house. Tell your granny to set on another plate. For we have our own that was gone and has come again.
So it is for us. When we get to the City of No Clocks, He will stop whatever He is doing, look long at us, and then turn to those standing nearby and say "Set another place at the table. Tell everyone he's Home. For we have our own that was gone and has come again."
[For Part 1 of "Tick, Tick, Tick," see Post of March 11, 2006.]