Those of you who are regular readers may have wondered where I’ve been recently. If my estimate is correct, this is the longest I’ve been away since I first started blogging over two years ago. The reason is simple: life, over the course of these last three weeks, has been epic in every sense of the word. It has read like something Solomon himself could have penned. It’s literally been
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to mourn and a time to dance…(Eccles. 3:2-4)
In the last three weeks, we’ve seen babies, death, weddings, work deadlines, gardening (which, we all know, waits for no man), family vacation, and now once again, we’re counting off the days until school starts as the wheels of time have continued to turn, turn, turn. And more than ever, I feel my immortality creeping in. Yes, you read that right, my immortality.
Often, when we’re caught in a busy season of life, when the days blur and blend into weeks before we even realize it, our first impulse is clutch at the passing moments and try to harvest every drop of meaning from them. We scamper and scurry like little field mice desperate to collect our winter stores before it is too late. Rush, rush, hurry, hurry. Winter is coming. Life is passing you by.
But I’m coming to believe, that the passage of time and the cycle of life speaks less to our mortality than it does to our immortality. The displacement we feel, the unsettledness, isn’t simply because life is passing us by; it’s because we are immortal beings made in the image of our immortal God.
The concept of imago dei, of being made in God’s image, is experiencing a bit of a comeback lately and as it should. Unfortunately, most people are only exploring one dimension of it; it’s being limited to describe our shared humanity and paraded out only when arguing for the sanctity of life or equality between the races or genders. But living imago dei isn’t so much about looking to each other to understand ourselves as it is about looking to Him to understand ourselves.
So when we’re trying to make sense of the moments and years that slip through our fingers, we can only do it as we look to Him. We can only make sense of time as we look to His eternal nature. Solomon understood this and it is precisely why he doesn’t end his famous poem by simply embracing the “circle of life.” He doesn’t simply shrug his shoulders and say “C’est la vie.” Instead he directs our attention to God’s own eternality, writing that “whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it… He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
And it is here, in God’s timeless nature, that we can finally begin to understand our own.
We can finally begin to understand what Solomon meant when he wrote that God “has put eternity in [our] hearts.” Because when we feel the woosh and whizz of time as it rushes past, when we want to raise our hands and call for a “time-out,” we are not simply feeling the weight of our own mortality. We are feeling the weight of our immortality. We are experiencing the burden that only timeless beings caught in the wheels of time can experience. And it is this very contradiction that makes us long for something more stable, more certain, more permanent than what the cycles of this life can offer.
The turning, turning, turning makes us realize that we are made for more. As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” So that it is the cycle of life itself that propel us toward the One who doesn’t change—the One who exists both in and outside of time. The One who transcends it all.
And when we understand this—when we begin to live in His timelessness instead of the pages of a calendar—we can finally make sense of time itself. Solomon concludes that there is nothing better for us than to “be joyful and to do good as long as [we] live.” We can do this, not because we rely on the “circle of life” but because we rely on the Giver of Life. We rely on the One who endures forever. We rely on the One who makes all things beautiful in its time.
So as summer winds down—as what in June seemed so full of promise but now in August seems to have flitted away like a vapor—enjoy these last days and embrace each as a gift from His hand. Be joyful. Do good work. Take pleasure in what He has given you. Because when you do this, you will finally begin to transcend the grinding wheels of time. When you find peace in His eternality, you will finally make peace with your own.
And then you will begin know what it means to live imago dei.