Christians maintain that the God who sustains the universe into being once became man. That God underwent human emotion and even failed to recognize who touched him once. In becoming man, how did the whole universe keep going while he was a man, or when sleeping, how did he keep a watchful eye over all? Imagine that it is 9:30:38:31am right now. There’s someone undergoing a heart transplant, which needs to be transferred in a split second. Otherwise, …you guess it! Still at 9:30:38, a train driver carrying 255 passengers lost control. A boat in the middle of the sea transporting chemicals is about to hit an iceberg. Millions of cases like that need God’s attention at this very second. How did he care for all these that needed his attention at once as a man? Raising these kinds of questions simply exposes the depth of our temporality and how that restrains our views. If we truly understand where we stand in relationship to God when it comes to time, no such concern would occupy our mind.
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). God sees today what will happen tomorrow. He knows now what will happen in a thousand years. He sees the past, the present, and the future now. That’s so because he is timelessness. He is outside of time. There is no such thing as years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds. They are our way of making sense of the whole shtick. These timelines are just not part of God’s vocabularies.
That’s for our advantage
The idea that God is not in time is actually beneficial to us. Because he is not in time, he can take care of the surgery, the train, and the boat all at once. Because he is timelessness, he could come in time to teach us how to deal with our troubles in this valley of tears while continually sustaining ALL into existence. So the fact that he can be both in and outside of time is to our expediency. He is like us looking at Google Earth. He sees the whole at once; he can even see the dresser in our bedroom, he can be in somewhere in Africa and able to see the clothes in our wardrobe, however he does not act on it. While he knows what he will do from time to time, he lets us make our choice freely. And He knows us through and through. C. S. Lewis puts it this way: “God does not hurry along this time stream of the universe; he has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. Each of us is much alone with him as if we were the only being he has ever created. When Christ died, he dies for you individually as if you had been the only person in the whole world”. That is possible because he is not in time.
Time, Prophecy, Time measurement
Now what do we mean by time? Augustine is our lodestar here. He argues that time is not past because it no longer exists nor the future because it is not yet here. So time is the present and only that exists. If time is past and no longer is, and the future is yet to be, what do we mean when we refer to past and future? According to Augustine, the memory is the mean by which we refer to them. So history does not exist per se because it has already passed; it only exists through the memory. It is by recollecting that we can refer to something non-existent. When we speak about things to come, that has no existence in itself. It only exists in the mind. “Unless something is being realized, it is not” (xi, xviii (24)). Augustine notices that although future does not exist, prophets are able to predict the future very accurately. He admits that’s a puzzle he cannot decipher. Furthermore, he notes that perhaps there are three types of times: a present of things past, a present of time present, and a present of things to come. The first exists insofar there is memory. The second insofar there’s immediate awareness, and the last is insofar there is expectation and that too only exists in the mind (xi, xx (26)). Lastly, time cannot be measured because it is always passing. That passing makes it impossible to measure. Present is only this very moment, this very nanosecond. Time is not movement of the heavenly bodies— meaning, time is not measured by the sun, moon, or the days (xi, xxiii (30)). Neither is time the movement of a physical entity because these physical entities are in time. So time cannot be these (xi, xxiv (31)). The best definition of time for Augustine is “distension of the mind” (xi, xxvi (33)). It is always stretching forward unceasingly. So if we measure any time, it is only the past as we picture it in our mind. If we measure future, we measure what we expect it to be (xi, xxvii (34)).
This issue of time can lead to a lot of moral questions, but let’s choose something that concerns us more directly. Since happiness is the leading causes of why we do anything, let’s talk about how we should live and order our lives with respect to time so as to avoid the aforementioned fleeting questions.
The Gift of the Present Moment
The key that opens the door to interior peace and happiness is the ability to live in the present moment. Truth be told: we have absolutely no hold of the past and the future. It takes almost nothing to alter our promises, foresight, and plans about the future. We only possess the present moment. The present moment is full of opportunity and rich in grace, but it is up to us to take advantage of it. There is something liberating and exciting knowing that the present moment is ours. This person you are talking to right now is your opportunity to make the present counts. This job you are doing right now, be it cleaning bathroom or being a medical doctor, is your present moment; make it unforgettable. Live it as if it were your last chance; live it as if it were your only chance. As it is said, “sufficient for a day is its own trouble; let tomorrow take care of itself (Mat 6: 31)”.
Don’t let the mistakes of the past creep you down. Sincerely ask God to forgive you and live as if you had never done anything wrong. Life is to short too postpone living it to later. The past is the past; there’s almost nothing you can do to change it. The future is too unreliable to plan on it. So the present moment is our best alternative. That alternative elevates us to godliness. It makes us live like God. It is because God is living in the “now” that he can take care of everything all at once. It is when we living in the now that we can reach the being that we were meant to be i.e. happy, focused on what is, peaceful, and free. The present moment gives us serenity in the midst of the storm. It gives hope despite suffering; it allows us to be reminded of the past and prepare the future, but simultaneously being able to remove ourselves from them for we understand that they are simply means that accompany us to our ultimate end. So time prepares us for timelessness– heaven.