Time is a fascinating and unfathomable commodity. It is man’s way of measuring and organizing his life in mortality. Time "is the stuff life is made of," Benjamin Franklin said.
Time always has a beginning and an end. Life, as we know it here, has a point where it starts — wondrous to behold! — and a point where it just as mysteriously ends.
Time "plays fair," in that each man, woman and child is given the exact same amount, considering the proscribed measuring of day upon day. Yet it can be elusive and difficult to direct, to control, to pin down.
Difficult to control, and easy to squander. Franklin also said: "Lost time is never found again."
When we are young we think we have all the time in the world. Then the increased demands of life tug at our time, seeming to string out our energies until everything within us cries for relief. "If I just had enough time!" How often we have uttered that cry. William Penn, many years ago, observed: "Time is what we want most — but what we use worst."
It is easy to try to convince ourselves of things that will help to justify our own weaknesses. We do not have more to do than people of past ages. We do have means of working, traveling and communicating with greater accuracy and speed.
In a journal entry dated Jan. 8, 1872, Ellis Shipp (who became the second woman doctor in Utah) wrote in her autobiography "While Others Slept":
"Last night I wrote down my work for today which is as follows: Rise at four, dress, make a fire, sweep, wash in cold water, write a few lines in my journal. Write a letter, read a chapter in Dr. Gunn and a few extracts from Johnson. Dress the children, make bed, sweep, dust and prepare my room for the breakfast table. Breakfast at nine."
That was just the beginning!
Nor are the pressures of daily life much different now from times we look back upon. Take a glimpse into a day from the life of Susa Young Gates, second LDS Church President Brigham Young’s talented and resourceful daughter, as recorded in "Heroines of the Restoration." This is dated Aug. 19, 1895, Provo, Utah:
"Go down cellar with Emma Lucy (later a world-famous contralto soprano) and show her how to clean it. Go to Aunt Corneel’s, take her to Eikens, get hers and my fruit. Darn Dan’s stockings. Boil over bottle of spoiled fruit.
"Practice on my bicycle. Clean my office. Answer letters. Prepare talk. Go to BY Academy’s opening exercises at 10 o’clock. Write to Pres. Joseph F. Smith, Pres. Cannon, Apostles Richards and Roberts about writing for the Young Woman’s Journal. Wash my head. Get kitchen carpet and have Dan put it down. Get vegetables and fruit for dinner. Take clothes to Relief Society. Get consecrated oil ."
This is her day only in part.
So, we have no excuses in that direction. Ordinary daily living always has and still does take time, effort, organization — and sacrifice.
Time takes us places that surprise us, and places we do not wish to go. It can move us along like a brisk wind, hurrying our pace — until suddenly we’re older and much in life has already passed us by.
Or time can be as laggard and reluctant as a sluggish summer stream, not interested in taking us anywhere at all.
But life must not be in bondage to time. Rather, the other way round. If we waste time, we give away part of our very lives! Malcolm X put the point well when he said: "In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure."
Shipp, as a qualified doctor, delivered more than 6,000 babies, taught nursing to hundreds of women, raised a large family — and fit in "other things" that she really wanted to do — such as writing and publishing a sizable book of very admirable poetry, titled "Life Lines."
President David O. McKay loved to memorize poetry, so it was his way to arise around 4 each morning, during which time he would often skim-read up to two books a day (see "Our Refined Heavenly Home," by Elder Douglas L. Callister, BYU Magazine, winter 2007). He was able to quote 1,000 poems from memory.
Life is happening to us — not time. Conquer time so that it does not conquer you is a statement of power. It is easy to let time bewilder or overwhelm us — but the challenge is to make it work for us.
I like this beautiful counsel: "What do I cherish enough to choose to do with my time?" Are we selling our birthright of mortal time for mere baubles, for a pittance?
We are encouraged by statements in scripture, such as these words in Alma 40:8, " all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men."
Or this statement in Revelation 10:5-6: "And the angel lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever that there should be time no longer."
We can, we know, look forward to wonders and to blessings that we cannot right now comprehend. But this is Our Day — our day of mortal challenge. Let us encompass our days in wisdom and power — that we might rejoice in the time the Lord has given us.
Sources: "While Others Slept," autobiography of Ellis Shipp, compiled by daughter Ellis Shipp Musser, Bookcraft, 1962, p. 90; "Heroines of the Restoration," edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher, Bookcraft, 1997, p. 236-237; Our Refined Heavenly Home," by Elder Douglas L. Callister, BYU Magazine, winter 2007; BrainyQuote.com, "Time Quotes"
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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