Time is merciless. It passes regardless of what we want or need. And the fact that there are no pauses—not even to catch our breath when we are figuratively (sometimes literally) drowning—can make us feel like life is specifically designed to kill us. And it is. None of us make it out alive. Even if we manage to escape what would otherwise kill us if given the chance, our biological clocks continue ticking. Sooner or later, we will expire. We seem resigned, therefore, to simply make the best of a bad situation. That is, at least, if we’re spiritually blind. Which we are. We see through a glass, darkly.
I can’t tell you how many times in my life I would have paused time if given the opportunity. I’m reminded of that harrowing scene in Saving Private Ryan when the German soldier stabs a knife slowly into the American soldier. After realizing just how desperate his situation had become, and just before the knife entered his chest, the American soldier hopelessly begged, “Stop!” His attempt to inspire the German soldier’s mercy fell on deaf ears, and for good reason. It was the American soldier’s knife, after all.
And that’s the point. We demand of others what we refuse to demand of ourselves. We don’t generally do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We do what we want until we get what we deserve. And then we beg for mercy.
We’re in the habit of demanding what we think we deserve. In fact, we’re conditioned to believe we deserve all sorts of things: cars, houses, educations, spouses, money, friends, jobs, happiness, etc. However, we only ever think about what we deserve in terms of the positive things we think apply. But what about the other side of this coin? What about the negative things that should also apply?
We’re also in the habit of making mistakes—sometimes terrible mistakes. It’s our nature. It’s part of the human condition. But when it comes to what we deserve as it relates to our mistakes, we tend to focus on how we might avoid what we deserve. In other words, in these moments we tend to value very highly the principle of mercy.
We forget, however, that mercy cannot rob justice. For mercy to apply, a worthy sacrifice is required. And because we are of ourselves unworthy, we should begin each day by thanking God that we don’t get everything we deserve. Indeed, at the very least, we get another day. To be sure, God—unlike time—is merciful, as evidenced by the breath in our lungs.
But time isn’t the problem. Our attitude toward it is.
We don’t need more time. We don’t even need to go back in time. We need to appropriately value the time we have.
We need to respect time.
We can’t do anything about yesterday, but we can do something about this moment right now. And that, more than anything else, is what matters. Regardless of who we have been, we can choose to be different now. We can respect this moment by giving it everything we got.
I don’t know how to appropriately or accurately determine what I deserve, so I don’t even try. I just try to do my best in this moment and then accept whatever happens next. Did I deserve that promotion? Did I deserve my parents, my place of birth, that flat tire, my gifts, my weaknesses, or that ulcer? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. How do we know for sure what happens to us and what we ourselves cause? Do we really understand fully the forces that act upon us or our place in the world? Maybe. Maybe not.
What I do know, however, is that I owe this moment my honest labor. And that, no matter who I am or what I have done, I can give. The fact that I can give it is mercy enough.