Backwards, march!

Of the sixteen New Years I have written these faith columns, my first remains my favourite. From the vault, here it is again, slightly edited.

Something strange scampers underfoot at our house. One of our clocks, which for years has conformed nicely to the art of proper timekeeping, marches boldly where no Gibson clock has gone before.

Rick discovered it first. “This clock is going backwards!” His bass voice skidded towards soprano.

“No way.”

“Come and see. Bet someone put the battery in wrong.” He pried open the clock’s back. Positive to positive – no foolery there. Removing the battery, he applied all his technological expertise – shook the clock and reassembled it precisely the way it had been. The hands obediently reversed – for about thirty seconds.

The clock has run in reverse ever since. If I start a half-hour task at 2:30, I’m done by 2. I begin dinner at 7:30 and we’re eating by 6. It’s made me incredibly efficient – the wonderwoman I always wished to be. And it’s made me ask ‘what if’? What if I could really turn back the clock? What if I could live my last hour over again? What would I change?

I never have to think long. There’s always something I’d do differently. I’d use that spare ten minutes for that small task I keep putting off. I wouldn’t put that in my body. I’d take five minutes to reflect before that hurtful conversation. I’d run outside for a gulp of fresh air. I’d hug her good-bye. I’d do the loving thing instead of the proper thing. I’d say yes. I wouldn’t have spoken so quickly, assumed so much.

No wonder we want a fresh start each new year. Looking over our shoulder, a stockpile of hours confronts us, each with its own particular “could’a, should’a, would’a’s”. It’s a life-debt we can never pay, a debt to the self we wish we had been.

Far easier to start again, and every January many try.

Financial planners tell us to keep short accounts, to pay our debts as we go – weekly, monthly, yearly. Get into the habit, they say. Soon it’ll become a way of life.

My renegade clock reminds me to do the same with my time. A life-debt doesn’t look so impossible if it’s only ankle deep. A moment or an hour. Sometimes I can go back. Some things can be undone.

I can apologize for not thinking before I spoke. I can run outside now and enjoy the breeze in my hair. I can hug her hello when she comes back. I can call and say I’ve reconsidered.

Time is the most precious commodity God supplies to us all. No one owns it. No one can kill it. It marches forward, whether or not my small timepiece conforms. All I’m permitted to do is use it. Wisely, I pray.

At the start of 2017, I pray you the resolve to keep your life-debts short, payable every hour, every day. And perhaps a backwards clock to remind you.