Most of us have a love/hate relationship with time. We look forward with longing for certain days to arrive. The promise of Christmas, the day of graduation, the date of our wedding to name a few. And yet time also seems to be an enemy as we struggle to complete tasks or are bored for lack of something to do. Our basic understanding of time is linear. We move from one moment to the next. In a way, we are trapped at this moment we call now. Yet we also recognize the past and look forward to the future. God’s experience with time, however, is far different.
To be honest this is a difficult aspect to wrap our heads around. We have some experience with power, presence, and knowledge. That experience of seeing variations of those attributes in the world around us allows us to consider God’s fullness of them. But time seems different, or is it?
Prior to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, we assumed time was fixed. Now we know there is a squishiness due to other factors. For instance. Two people, one on earth and one on a spaceship traveling near the speed of light would each experience the pass of seconds in the same way. But, according to Relativity, when their paths crossed again more time will have passed for the person on earth than the person rocketing through space.
In this attribute of God, there is a constant tension between our limited finite experience of time and God’s eternal experience of time. Peter wrote, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” (2 Peter 3:8, NASB95) God simply doesn’t see time the same way we do.
C. S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity – “If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to the parts of the line one by one: we have to leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God, from above or outside or all round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.”
We experience one moment at a time while God experiences all moments at once. You could rightly say that God is outside of time. He is not bound by its constraints. God is eternal, before time and after time. And yet all of creation is governed in some way by time, such as the cyclical vibrations of light or the steady rotation of the earth around the sun.
To sum up. In God’s experience of time, there is no past tense (was) or future tense (will be). For Him, all our “nows” are now. For God, what happened in the past is now and what will happen tomorrow for us is now. Yet while God is outside of time He is also timely and works within our experience of time (past, present, and future).
God is working within the grand sweep of history. He is also working within our own personal history right now. An apt description of God’s work is that of a potter spinning a cup, bowl, vase, or pitcher. As we spin through our days God is molding and shaping each one of us today for our tomorrow. The question is whether we are yielding or rebellious to His touch at this moment we call today.