World Enough and Time

August 30, 2017

There's a poem by Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress," that begins, "Had we but world enough and time [ . . . ]" It's a great phrase. For the speaker and his eponymous lover, the phrase is his desire for more time for them to flirt and fall in love. For us, though, the possibilities are endless. What would we do "had we but world enough and time"?

 

Would we travel the world? Buy a mansion? Spend a thousand years learning to compose symphonies? Master sculpture? Finally catch Bigfoot? Cure cancer? Tell that special someone we love them? Eat an entire chocolate cake? Spend a decade installing water purification systems in Central America? Climb Everest? Translate the Bible into a currently unknown language? Build a church? Rob Fort Knox? Possibilities abound -- both good and evil.

 

We will never, in this life, possess world enough and time. This is why Psalm 90, the psalm of Moses, asks God, "Teach us to number our days" (v. 12a). "God," he says, "show me what to do in order to have a meaningful life that is pleasing to You." This is a far cry from society's carpe diem. It's not an attitude of selfishness or greed or hedonism. It's a simple prayer for a purposeful and holy life given the reality "Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures" (v. 10a).

 

Life is short. We'll never have everything, and we'll never rule the world (even if you wanted to). Since that's just reality, it's up to us to discern how to number our days as God would have us do so. I guess we really do have "world enough and time": as much time and world as we need to accomplish God's purposes for us before He calls us home.

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