Time, Strep Throat, and God
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come . . . Revelation 1:4
Years ago, I saw a patient who complained that his bed was wet. I asked about urinary incontinence, which was confusing to him as he had no urinary symptoms. After a while, I realized he was having night sweats from a fever, making his bed wet. It took a while, but eventually he told me of his sore throat and we got a strep test. He had streptococcal pharyngitis. I prescribed antibiotics which – from his perspective – solved his wet bed problem. Growing up in a different culture, he had a radically different perspective than I did. To him, the most obvious manifestation of his illness was the wet bed. Not only did we speak a different language, but we also had completely different concepts of physical health and medicine. We simply weren’t understanding each other because of our radically different perspectives.
Perspective often creates what we perceive as conflict between God and us. In today’s passage, John stated that God was, is, and is to come. God is infinite. He created space and time, and therefore cannot be confined by it. If we took a pen and a piece of paper, drawing a line representing all time, God wouldn’t be somewhere on that line. He would be the pen, the ink, and the piece of paper upon which the line was drawn. All space and time exist in him and though it makes my head hurt to think about it, he doesn’t move moment by moment through time as we do. He knows the past, the present, and the future. He has a perspective that our minds simply cannot grasp.
We pray for something, and it doesn’t happen in a day. Or a week. Or a decade. So, we’re frustrated with a God who’s observed perhaps billions of years. On that timeline we’ve drawn, our days on Earth are an infinitesimally small blip. I’m not suggesting we’re insignificant. I’m simply insisting that our perspective of time is dreadfully self-centered and small-minded. What is the span of our lifetime time to an infinite God?
Again, I don’t point this out to make us feel insignificant. God loves us and sent his son to die for our sins. He gave us the Bible – his word – to direct us to him. He’s intensely interested in a personal relationship with us. We though, must make some effort to acknowledge God’s timelessness. He is infinite and as such, we will never grasp his ways completely. Faith though, means pointing our lives at him, following his will, even when we don’t understand his timing.