Post last updated on February 8, 2023
Image credit: RAH
When Jesus took the occasion to describe the gracious character of God, he employed one of the simplest images that belongs to nature: God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). God’s inclinations, we may then gather, include an indiscriminate display of his kindness, expressed here in the regular and alternating gifts of sunlight and rain. We easily recognize this sentiment, all the more when we live in close connection to the land.
Of course, the sun is not the rain, and the rain is not the sun. The blessings now attached to life actually proceed upon a balance between the two. The leaves that decorate a tree will wither in drought but are drowned in a deluge; but it is not merely the field and its harvest that seeks equilibrium. If we received but either sunlight or showers, we would soon miss the other and despair for the one that we possess. Their proper balance not only ripens the fruit in the field, but settles man’s anxieties, infusing time with measured and appreciable rhythms. Today’s hope reaches out into the future because it is rooted in the memory of yesterday. It intuitively expects tomorrow in the recollection of rhythms.
But these rhythms, we also know, have their unfortunate and unyielding circumference. They bend more and more into a diminishing number of tomorrows. The passing of days, we only eventually concede, is also the diminishing of our time, and we therefore begin to feel the weight of each day’s passing as signaling our own. Time, then, becomes something more to us than the measured span of what we do. There is also the frightening contemplation of what is not done: tasks uncompleted, people unvisited, God’s grace unacknowledged. These and other failures are, perhaps, initially remembered and justified as intentions, but they soon reemerge in the conscience as disappointments and shame—regrets.
Regret then calls out from the past against our future hope. It arises again and again from the human heart; and so we then beg for some other order of things, something to strike a blow and flatten the curve of remembered time back into a straight line and give it some length into the future—something to end the silly cycles that turnabout in our heads. All the while, we are still stepping forward into the end of our time, and we know this too well. Each new day falls on the conscience like a beated drum. The balance that we seek, then, cannot be found in time and its seasons only. Rhythm needs its melody and time pleads for eternity.
*I plan to later add a second part to this post.