Letter from the Editor: There’s No Time Like the Present

As we enter into the crisper days of fall, I’ve found myself reflecting back on the past six months. In our shared experience as humans, we’ve witnessed things move intensely fast in some ways: while COVID-19 death tolls have skyrocketed, so have scientific advancements. And yet, for most of us, the days have trudged on at a snail’s pace.

Waiting is hard. And if I could characterize the last six months, I would just say there has been so much waiting. Waiting to get into a store. Waiting for things to be restocked. Waiting for schools and doctors’ offices to reopen. Waiting for places to hire again. Waiting for a vaccine. Waiting for God to answer our sincerest prayers that this suffering might end. Waiting for something, anything.

Waiting requires that we have faith that while we may not see it at all, and certainly cannot see it in its fullness, our present suffering has purpose and will be redeemed in time. But the timeline of redemption is not ours to dictate, no matter how hard we often battle to control it.

Our authors remind us that both living in the past and running toward the future often prevent us from seeing what God is doing right now.

In this issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine, we take a look at humanity’s efforts to turn back and fast forward time, often to alleviate our own immediate suffering. Our authors remind us that both living in the past and running toward the future often prevent us from seeing what God is doing right now.

S. E. Kesselring takes us to the series finale of Cartoon Network’s long running show Adventure Time in her feature, “’Time Adventure’: Solace in Non-Linearity,” to remind us that our hearts can take solace that God is not confined by the bounds of earthly time that so often bring us anxiety:

The main themes of BMO’s song explore the idea of time as being fluid and non-linear. His first line, “Time is an illusion that helps things make sense,” reminds the characters that their experiences are not limited to things happening in the current moment, an enormously comforting thought when terror dominates the present. BMO claims that the linearity of time can be useful, but it is not reality.… Even as the world crumbles around them, the characters’ histories of love and bravery are as alive and relevant as ever. The Bible describes a similar perception of time belonging to God, as in 2 Peter 3:8 it says, “that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (ESV). God’s view of time operates entirely differently from the human view, as His omniscience of all history and future outcomes prevents Him from being negatively affected by any present moment. This is not to say that God does not care about the struggles and hardships of people in whatever their current moment is, but that His knowledge of the future prevents Him from experiencing time with any uncertainty, doubt, or fear.

And yet, when our current moment is full of fear, it becomes easy for us to yearn for what we remember to be an easier, earlier time. At best, this might cause us to miss the present. At worst, Rebekah Flovin points out in “Merricat and the Sin of Nostalgia,” our desires to stay in the past are a selfish refusal to recognize that the nostalgic days of yore we long for were perhaps not so great for everyone around us:

It’s tempting to dismiss Merricat’s clinging to childishness, like our own wistful longing, as something harmless or possibly even worth protecting. However, her childishness is not undergirded by a deeper layer of innocence or naivety, but rather a deep layer of selfishness. Merricat seeks to control Constance and keep their living situation in stasis. It is this deep need for control that is Merricat’s true sin—nostalgia. At its core, nostalgia is a selfish desire. Nostalgia is defined as a deep longing to return to a past time, presumably when times were better or when everyone was happy. Ostensibly, this definition would imply that everyone shares the same memories of good times or being happy, but in practicality, the one who is feeling nostalgic is the one who determines when and what the good times were.

Chris Fogle, sitting down to watch The Vast of Night, addresses his own desire to escape unhealthy nostalgia, yet still enjoy things of the past, in his feature essay, “What The Vast of Night Taught Me About Living in the Moment”:

What are we escaping? The now. The monotony. Being held hostage in a group text. The loneliness. God put a healthy desire for eternity in each of our hearts (Philippians 3:17–21; Hebrews 11:16, 12:22–24) so nostalgia, timelessness, escape, even time travel, all have their place. But where it goes wrong is our desire for unhealthy balance.

We should be living in the moment, however that makes sense for our specific situations. This whole epiphany started with a film, so I won’t say throw out the screens, just maybe turn them off once in a while. Don’t let the device get in the way of the adventure. Embrace that panicky boredom we all feel when we experience a dreaded internet and cable outage. Be intentional in sitting, device free, in silence and wait for God. Be intentional in deeper conversations with others. The depression and anxiety and loneliness can be replaced by peace.

But of course, living in the moment can be hard. Hard moments permeate our lives, challenging us to move slowly when it feels that everything, and everyone, around us is moving at hypersonic speed. Watching the coming-of-age film Boyhood, Derek Hiebert points us to see the slow and mundane times of life as worthwhile in the development of our faith. In his essay, “Faith Coming of Age”, Hiebert encourages us to see time as something other than an enemy:

Yet the monotony of these everyday moments, dragging along as they do like molasses, are no less meaningful as they provide a space for growth. The question is, are we aware of what God may be doing in the routine, humdrum moments of life?

Thomas Schreiner, in his theology of the biblical story, notes how strikingly slow the fulfillment of God’s covenant was with Abraham. Indeed, it took virtually Abraham’s entire lifetime to gain his first offspring of the promise. If the book of Genesis teaches us anything, it is that there is no fanfare in the process of believing, and apparently God is not in a hurry to get things done.

God’s time is not our own. It is not linear, not rushed, not consumed by yesterday nor scared of tomorrow. If you’re like me, that probably feels bittersweet in these days—emblematic of our natural propensity to wrestle with time rather than to move with it. In battling time, we also find ourselves battling God—eternity’s timeline too large for us to comprehend or find solace in. Yet He is not daunted by time, nor our desire to fight it, and when we inevitably tire and come to Him for comfort, we can be continually reminded that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us in time (Romans 8:18).

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In This Issue

“Time Adventure”: Solace in Non-Linearity

God’s view of time operates entirely differently from the human view, as His omniscience of all history and future outcomes prevents Him from being negatively affected by any present moment.

by S. E. Kesselring

Merricat and the Sin of Nostalgia

We are called not to stay as we were found or as we wish we had been found, but to grow in spiritual maturity and knowledge of the Gospel; to remain focused on the past is to refuse to grow spiritually.

by Rebekah Flovin

What The Vast of Night Taught Me about Living in the Moment

If we struggle believing the best is yet to come, the first step is acknowledging that not all nostalgia is healthy.

by Chris Fogle

Faith Coming of Age

In spite of our drive to speed up growth and reach the goal of faith, perhaps the real goal is to trust the process. Rather than an object to be controlled, we can enjoy the blessing of time as a gift.

by Derek Hiebert

How Christians Deal with the Loss of Time

Why do I feel a jot of sadness when I drive past the cornfield that now occupies the space where my childhood home once stood?

by Matt Poppe

Private: The Rhetoric of Nostalgia: How Our Collective Craving for Nostalgia Calls Us Home

What Stranger Things and its 1980s nostalgia-evoking counterparts do so well is to call us back to a place and a time that feels to us very much like home.

by Andrew

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood: A Primer on Detachment

In a film built on the relationship between the passage of time and the development of character, Mason’s hope lies in the understanding that the present is constant, always renewing itself.

by Mary McCampbell

Time in the Telling: How Stories of Time Help Us Grapple with a Fallen World 

All of time itself is but a dream from which the people of Narnia—and, let the reader understand, all of us—will someday wake.

by K. B. Hoyle

1 Comment

  1. Is it that God’s “time” is different to the time that we perceive? To live in the Absolute moment is to live in the awareness of God; there is no time, there is only now and the Absolute. The time that we perceive washes over us and changes physicality but the Absolute is unchanging and unaffected by time. God is. All else waxes and wanes.

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