The One Thing You Can Never Get Back

Just before New Year’s Eve 2008, I went to visit my roommate and close friend from University. I had recently learned that his newborn niece Sophie had been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that would limit her lifespan to a maximum of a year. Realizing that I may not have a chance to see little Sophie if I kept putting the trip off, I took time off of work to go visit her.

When I first heard the news of Sophie’s condition, I immediately prayed on the matter. I believe that God has a purpose for all of us and that in Sophie’s short time on earth she would fulfill her purpose. I believe that God brought her into my life to teach me something. Perhaps this was part of her purpose.

When seeing Sophie, I couldn't help but hear the voice of my former boss who often asked our clients: “What's the one thing you can never get back?” People would struggle with the answer as though it was a trick question. The answer, of course, is time. Time is precious. No matter how long we live we don’t have a lot of it. Sophie was a strong reiteration of this point for me. Thinking of her has led me to the conclusion that time is one of God’s many gifts to us.

I'm reminded of the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19: 11-27 (a mina was the currency at the time that amounted to approximately three months’ wages). A wealthy man gives his servants a mina each and embarks on a long journey. When he comes back, he asks what return the servants made on his investment. One servant returns with ten minas, another with five and both are rewarded for their work. However, one servant returns the same mina that the master had given him. The master is angry with the third servant and takes his mina away. The master is God and we are the servants. The question that this parable is asking is quite simple: what have we done with the gifts that God has given us? What have we done with the time that we've been afforded? Have we worked to bless others with our gift, have we been idle with it or, worse yet, have we wasted it completely?

I know that I there have been periods in my life when I haven't spent my time well. I've wasted time dwelling on anger. I've done things that I now regret. Living a life without regret is a major theme in one of my favorite movies, “The Last Samurai“. For men like the samurai, warriors who know that their lives can end at any moment, it makes sense that living a life without regret would be so important. As we usually regret our evil deeds we must realize that the evil we commit is not only a sin against God and one another, but also a sin against ourselves. We've wasted precious time doing something that we'll regret and we'll never get that time back. We've robbed ourselves.

Sophie Patricia Graham Ford died in May of 2009. In honor of her memory, I've committed myself to a resolution that I encourage all who read this article to adopt. I'll do my best to spend all of my time being the man that God wants me to be. Feeling anger is natural, but dwelling on it breeds unhappiness and so I'll invest my time being better than I have been. As the age old saying goes – yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. Time is precious, so use it wisely.

This article was originally published in the February 2009 issue of  “The Anglican”, the official newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada's Toronto Diocese. Check it out to see the good things that God is doing in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area and the rest of Southern Ontario, Canada.

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