Time is both fact and dilemma. It frustrates, disappoints, rewards and thwarts. It blinds us (can’t see the future); lures us (maybe today will be better); haunts us (“memories, like the corners of my mind…”); and intoxicates (I never want this moment to end!). It is perhaps the most inescapable mystery of human existence.
The Greek poet Aeschylus captured the most direct utility of Time, noting that “Time brings all things to pass.” No duh, right? Yet the observation remains useful, if only because 2500 years later, C.S. Lewis said pretty much the same thing: “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” In other words, you can’t escape it, you can only go through it if you wish to discover what lies on the other side. Whether we are talking about the next hour, day or decade, tomorrow is the unfulfilled mission of your life. Which brings us back to a wandering Semite named Abram, for whom God has big, big plans. Outrageous, hard-to-fathom big.
“And (God) took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:5-6)
The fact is, if we truly knew what God had in store for us—if all at once, our entire future could be compressed into present revelation—our brains would melt. So Time is a form of mercy, a steady-dripping IV, dosing your destiny so that you can assimilate a God-sized dream and still survive the experience. Yet every now and then, it’s like God sends a nurse into the room with a full syringe. No drip-drip-drip this time. Instead, she loads us up with a full shot of prophetic adrenaline, a divine download. Some dream captures us, or an unexpected promotion lands in our lap. A child is born, if not physically, then metaphorically in our hearts. Angels sing, the heavens open, and just for a moment, we are blinded by the brightness of what our life is meant to be. In those moments, regardless of our previous setbacks, frustrations and failures—even should our potential outstrip our capacity—yet having been given this heavenly glimpse, faith awakens.
It’s a truly miraculous process, but rarely clean. Typically, we grasp and fumble, formulating ideas and action plans to help move the process along. In other words, once we get the vision, our main goal becomes speeding up Time. Or in the words of that great postmodern philosopher, Larry the Cable Guy, we try to help God “Get-R-Done!”
Abram responds differently. Later in the story, due to ongoing delays, he will try to convince God “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” (Gen. 17:18). In other words, “I’ve already got Ishmael, can’t he be the promised son?” But that’s not what’s happening here. This is before Ishmael or Isaac. At present, Abram has nothing but a starry sky to look at. And here in Genesis 15, he simply believes. He believes the crazy and wild. He takes the full adrenaline shot of God’s Big Covenant Dream for his life: “Count the stars if you are able! That’s you someday, childless old man. Destined to be a father of nations, I guarantee it!” And rather than hijacking the plan with his own methodology, or doubting the plan with his own insecurities, vis-a-vis Abram’s Top Ten Reasons Not Even God Can Pull This Off (Reason number 7: God, I’m old!—that Time thing again), Abram does something so weak, so human, yet so luminous, it has shined as a beacon through the ages ever since.
And God was pleased. Not by Abram’s efforts or labors to earn the dream, nor by any conniving manipulations to pare it down to something more manageable. No, God was (and is) pleased with simple, dangerous, foolish trust.
In fact, Abram’s faith became a daring claim to righteousness in God’s eyes. Abram couldn’t make the dream come true, he could only receive it, which is all God wanted. While we equate Time with Delay, Abram saw Time as the means to Fulfillment. Please note, the difference is not in Time itself. It is inside you.