Hours in a Day

I was tempted to complain yesterday that there aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ve made this complaint before, and I’ve heard others make it. We say this as though we’re the victims of some grand cosmic scheme to suck up all our free time. It’s a complaint we’re more likely to make when we don’t enjoy everything we’re doing, when we feel like the time we really want to do something more important – spend time with family, exercise, rest, read, etc. – has been stolen from us.

Yesterday was no worse than any typical Monday for me. But as I looked at my half-completed to-do list late that afternoon, I found myself wishing I simply had more time. But then it hit me: what an insult such a complaint must be to God, who appointed the lengths of days and seasons.  As Psalm 104 says, it was God who “made the moon for the seasons.” In other words, the lunar cycles bear witness to the fact that certain rhythms are embedded in the structure of creation. The daily rhythm of light and dark is another example. And God put these rhythms in place for a reason.

The Psalmist continues:

The sun knows the place of its setting. You appoint darkness and it becomes night, in which all the beasts of the forest prowl about. The young lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God. When the sun rises they withdraw and lie down in their dens. Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until evening (Psalm 104:19-23 NASB).

As Psalm 104 suggests, all of creation is meant to live according to certain rhythms. Sleep. Sabbath. The poet writing Psalm 104 sees these rhythms as gifts.  But I think today we’re more likely to perceive these rhythms as limits, instead of gifts. And this is dangerous thinking, because as soon as we think we’ve become limitless, we’ve made ourselves into gods.

This is one more place where I think the spiritual discipline of dedication to the truth can be liberating.  Dedication to the truth means accepting the limits that define our existence as creatures, including the number of hours in a day, but that liberates us from unrealistic demands, whether self-imposed or thrust upon us by others. The truth that we are creatures liberates us from our pride that expects to be able to accomplish more than is humanly possible. The truth that rhythms of work and rest are built into creation liberates us to work well when we should, and to stop when it’s time to stop. Thank God that there are 24 hours in a day.

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