We measure the passage of time in different ways by using mechanical time pieces, digital clocks, and the hour glass. But the sundial, it seems to me, is the most straightforward method of telling time, for it uses the movement of the sun itself.
Glance at the sun’s shadow, whether on a sundial or anywhere else it’s cast, and it seems stationary, but that’s because we don’t stare long enough. We’re like the hare in the story of the tortoise and hare where the race was won by the tortoise because the hare thought he had all the time in the world. We think the sun to be tortoise-slow, underestimating its relentless movement across the sky, and so we come to realize that in racing the sun we often lose.
The accompanying image of the sundial was photographed at the Toledo Botanical Garden. I don’t recall planning it that way, but did you notice I took the picture around the 11th hour?
One of my favorite singers, Neil Diamond, has a song, not one of his most famous songs, called Done too Soon. The lyrics list all kinds of people, from the past and the present, rapid fire. Then the song slows and Neil sings about how they‘ve all labored under the same sun and how that life, for all of them, was done too soon. I certainly can resonate with this tune about time, having just lost from this earth to heaven’s gain our five-year old grandson Danny. Life is often done too soon.
I’m thinking it’s good to live with a sense of the time being the 11thhour; it rarely works to our benefit to believe that we have all the time in the world. The psalmist Moses prayed a good prayer when he prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Not to be outdone, the psalmist David prayed, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” (Psalm 39:4)
We’ve each been parceled out an undisclosed number of days on this earth by our sovereign God. The psalmist David said as much when he prayed to God, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
Most things that are precious on earth, like silver and gold, are precious because of their scarcity. Time is precious because in the vast scheme of things our time here on earth is very limited, a scarce commodity. Let’s cherish each moment of it!