God’s perfect timing, or Time’s perfect god?

August 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

In Greek mythology, a guy named Sisyphus was punished by the gods. He was sentenced to an eternity spent pushing a huge rock up a steep hill. The catch was that before he could reach the top, he would find himself back at the bottom with the same task before him.

Endless repetition of the same pointless task was his eternal condemnation for some sort of trickery or conniving he had committed.

Day in and day out for eternity, Sisyphus was condemned to toil and labor for labor’s sake. Endlessly he pushed his rock up the hill, and at the end of the day he was no further along.

Life can feel like that sometimes. We sweat and heave and push for all we’re worth, only to realize that we’re not getting anywhere.

I can think of no punishment I would hate more than to repeat the same pointless task for even a day–much less an eternity.

And eternity is an interesting concept.

Is it the fullness of time–or the lack thereof that constitutes eternity?

God is outside of time, and not defined by it.

With what gall, then, do we make the assumption that “God’s timing is perfect”?

The older I get, the more that phrase sounds ridiculous. It’s the kind of thing we say when more coherent statements fail us. It’s kind of a filler phrase when we’re uncomfortable with silence, with pain, or with grief (as in “I don’t know why your child died–but God’s timing is perfect, so there must have been a reason!”)

Or it can be something to fill the air between two people when one is pleased with an event or an outcome but far too ‘humble’ to accept the responsibility for it. (as in “well, we were looking for a bigger house, and wouldn’t you know, in God’s perfect timing this mansion just opened up for half what it’s worth!)

Yay God.

The thing is, I’m not sure that’s an accurate understanding of time…or of God. Such an understanding (when taken to its logical conclusion) blinds us to the very painful reality of evil in the world. It makes too little out of tragedy and too much out of minutiae.

Time is a tool and nothing more. Or let me put it another way: There is no such thing as ‘perfect’ timing–whether God’s or anyone else’s.

Rather, let us think about time as something like the mines of Moriah in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yes, time is a dark, dank place full of death and bones. Shadows of greatness flicker off its walls, but while we journey here they remain only shadows and nothing more.

It must be passed through with courage, and it has the potential to bestow illusions of grandeur, but few of us would choose this route by our own free will.

The journey through will change us…though for better or for the worse remains to be seen.

I propose a moratorium on the phrase “God’s perfect timing” and all the variants thereof. It’s not that time can’t be full–or redeemed–or even good. But far too often we cling to that happenstance–that moment of goodness–and then callously proclaim to the world, to those caught in the hellish rot of very real and present evil, suffering, and pain that ‘God’s timing is perfect’.

In the beginning, God created everything that is (even time).

Then He proclaimed that it was good (not perfect).

Why should we seek to improve on that?


§ One Response to God’s perfect timing, or Time’s perfect god?

  • Ardell S. says:

    It’s part of a largely American Pollyanna complex, showing up in Christianity. Name it and claim it, God will save me, things will always become better, etc. Which leaves us unable to deal with cancer, death, the crucifixion, the results of human malice or natural evil. Then when Christians come up against that stuff in life we have to rethink our way of viewing God if we are to hold onto our faith. Then you need Job, the rough Psalms, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Jesus on the cross.

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