Imagine if you could go back in time and relive any moment in your life. What decisions would you make differently? What specific moments would you enjoy again? With whom would you spend more time?
I recently watched a movie called About Time,1 where the men of a certain family had the ability to go back in time to correct mistakes or replay moments in their lives. I’m sure at times all of us wish we could have this ability. We could right any wrongs, change unwise decisions, or take our proverbial foot out of our mouth when we had said or done something awkward. We could also learn more about interesting people and topics and have multiple tries to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Unfortunately, we only get one chance to live through each day, and sometimes we forget how priceless each day is. We allow the daily problems and stress to crowd out the wonderful blessings we have—friendships, family, experiences, and the fact that we’re creating memories we can keep forever.
Often, what we value is a matter of perspective. Lake Victoria in Uganda is a big, beautiful freshwater lake that flows into the Nile River. My family, friends, and I have gone swimming, boating, and jet skiing there. Since water in Uganda is abundant, the soil is very rich, and fruit and vegetables grow wild. Some friends of ours were from Libya, where petrol costs less than water. They said that if you drove a scooter in Libya, you could fill up for free, as payment for such a small amount of petrol wasn’t even worth the paper and ink for the receipt. However, a supply of fresh water like Lake Victoria astounded them. To them, water was worth far more than petrol!
They wondered why Uganda wasn’t a richer country with massive agricultural exports in place. The fact is, Ugandans have all they need and aren’t all that motivated to find ways to grow even more for exportation. They don’t even need to stock food for a long winter, as they enjoy summer weather all year round.
We often don’t appreciate something when it’s always available or when we have an abundance of it. For many of us, things like electricity or running water can be so common that it’s hard to imagine spending even a few hours without it, much less longer!
This reflection made me think about time. It’s something you don’t really appreciate until you don’t have any. It’s when work or life crowd our schedule, or when sickness or accidents threaten to take our life away completely that we finally pay attention to how precious our time here is.
In About Time, the father advises his son to live every day twice. He suggests that he live it the first time with all the tension and worries that stop him from noticing how sweet the world could be, and the second time taking time to stop and notice—to love the people around him and enjoy all the beautiful things.
Of course, we don’t have the luxury of traveling back in time, but we can live each day the first time around as if we had chosen to come back and make note of all the wonderful things in it.
I don’t know who originally came up with the following analogy, but it’s a great reminder of how valuable our time on earth is. Suppose your bank account was credited $86,400 every day, but with the catch that you couldn’t save any of this money. Every evening, the bank would cancel whatever part of that amount you had failed to use during the day.
The fact of the matter is that every morning, we’re credited with 86,400 seconds, 1,440 minutes, or 24 hours. Every night, the bank of time writes off as lost whatever time you failed to invest. It carries no balances. It allows no overdrafts. Each day, the bank of time opens a new account with you, and each night, it burns up the records of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposit, you must take the loss.
You might think: I’ll take 86,400 in currency rather than in seconds, please. But how valuable do you think that money would be if you’ve got no time to spend it?
Jesus told a short story about a rich fool who stored up all his wealth in barns, and when they couldn’t hold any more, he decided to build bigger barns to keep it all for himself. It so happened that he died that very night and realized he couldn’t take anything with him!2
As Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”