When you’re young, time seems to pass by torturously slow (think of when you were a child waiting for summer vacation, your birthday, Christmas, etc). It’s like being in a car that is driving parallel to a train with only a slight difference of speed between the two. You get to see a few different boxcars, but the scenery is limited.
Somewhere in your twenties or thirties, things start to speed up. It becomes more like you’re standing still and watching the train go by. The cars are going by at a good clip but you still have time to take it all in and because of that, you still feel somewhat “in control” of the situation.
Somewhere in your forties or fifties, things really speed up. Time is flying by and you have trouble remembering exactly what year (or decade) something happened. It’s like you are back in the car driving parallel to the train—only now you are going in the opposite direction of the train so the cars are flying by. You are not able to take it all in. You are not in control!
That’s as far as I’ve made it, but I remember a friend of mine who was in his eighties speaking of something he had done decades ago. He told me, “It seemed like yesterday.” From his perspective, time had flown by!
Of course, much of this has to do with our frame of reference. When you’re five years old and you have to wait six months for something, that seems like a long time (and it is), because six months represents a tenth of your life. When you’re fifty years old, six months is nothing because it is one-hundredth of your life. Repetition certainly figures in here somewhere because seeing something the first time leaves a much stronger, vivid impression than seeing it for the one-hundredth time.
All of this helps us to understand the psalmist’s petition:
Show me, O LORD, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life (39:4).
But we can do more than just lament the fact that time is leaking out of our lives like water through our hands. We can confess with the writer that “My times are in your hands,” (31:15). We may not be in control of time—but our Father is. And when we think about it, it’s much better for us that He is.
We can enjoy the passing of time if we know the One who possesses it!