It always ticks. No matter how much icy thick snow falls in drifts on my driveway and sidewalks, the clock ticks. No matter that the kids are out of school and I suddenly have two fewer days of time to myself to finish Christmas, the clock ticks. As the year winds down the clock continues to tick. Even that first moment after midnight on New Years the clock continues to tick, before you can even say "Happy New Year!" you're a multitude of moments into the new year and it's not so new.
The squeeze of time is what makes life stressful and unpleasant for me. If my husband and I had limitless time to spend together, talking and enjoying each other's company, our disagreements would be few and far between. If my daughter had more time to get ready for college I would not at all be worried about her new adventure. If I could finish my classes at a leisurely pace, taking the time to learn and enjoy it (novel concept), that monumental stressor would instead become a joy. The vise grip that time has on my life is what squeezes the joy out of my days.
What is time but the space between birth and death? God says in scripture that Christ takes away death through resurrection, but for the living when it comes along it is very real. Christ doesn't remove it, he lets it linger a while. This creates time, an entity that is in short supply. The theories of economics tell us that whenever something is in unlimited supply it's value goes down. Value is assigned to those things that are in limited supply, the more rare it is, the more valuable it is. Except when it comes to time. It's always there, ticking, ticking, it never leaves. Yet it is limited, only so many hours and days allotted to each of us.
I feel people using Christ's reassurances of our eventual restoration as an argument for why I should not worry now, that all should be well in Zion and in my heart. This is a Pollyanna version of the realities of life that I can't quite embrace. Doesn't scripture also say,
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." (Alma 34:32)Time is given to us for a purpose, to prepare to meet God and to perform our labors. I have an understanding of what I should do to prepare to meet God, but that list gets longer and longer as my vision reaches farther into my community and world and I see what needs to be done. How can I look to God after this life and admit to watching TV and checking Facebook when I know what needs to be done? This is the day for me to perform my labors, but the day isn't long enough!
God even admits to us that trying to work out what to do with our time will cause us some discomfort.
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil. 2:12)Recently I've had a difficult time praying because every time I do I feel prompted to do something. Of course this is good, I feel the presence of God in my life and the Holy Spirit prompting me to do good things. The problem is that I get no prompting as to how to create more time in my day for these things - like when to clean my house, or a reminder that I forgot to order my husband's last minute Christmas request. Then there are the intangibles, the things that we need to do but have no borders and can make our schedules look like swiss cheese. I am devoted to my family and spend time with them, but how much time? And it never fails that on the days that real things need to be done, my family's needs for me also increase = the squeeze.
I want to prepare to meet God, I want to perform my labors, I want to work out my salvation, and I've got the fear and trembling part down. The part I'm missing is where this is supposed to bring me joy, "Men are that they might have joy."
We ignore the first part of that scripture, as if it's some inconsequential preamble. Here's all of it:
"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Ne 2:25)
Adam fell, which resulted in death coming to all of us, which created time, limited time. Then here we are, that we might have joy. People throw that joy part around like a guilty buldgeon, as if in not being happy you're sinning. Instead, I think this scripture beautifully and painfully encapsulates life.
Adam, the father of us all and co-creator fell. Literally, an angel fell. This is a tragedy of mythical proportions, although I believe it is no myth. He fell and because of it here we are, on earth, with limited time, with pain, with inconsolable grief, with limited resources, with unintelligible nonsense. But- men are that they might have joy. Somehow in the midst of all of that it is possible to feel a bit of joy, just enough to keep us going.
It makes sense that our lives are filled with difficulty and some joy. If it were all rainbows, butterflies, and the continual happiness that booksellers tell us is possible why would we work to return to God? If earth life were heaven, what would we have to look forward to?
I refuse to feel guilty in the squeeze, it is the nature of mankind. If anything this makes me more human, to realize this unfathomable dichotomy of existence - fallen joy. I can feel myself becoming more tangible and real in this constantly changing space. Still, I waste away while the clock ticks.
*edited. I added a few thoughts, the second to last paragraph.