Time. It is one of those intangible things of incalculable value that makes up our lives. I was reminded of this again on a recent trip to Europe. There, in the heart of France I came across a town that had no stores whose signs also read the time and temperature as we see many do in North America. Instead, I was struck with the sound of the church bells that sounded the time every fifteen minutes throughout the day and night.
There is a certain beauty to the sound wave of a church bell rolling out from the bell tower of a church, down the hill and across the valley. But it was more than the haunting beauty of the tolling bells that struck me. It was the avalanche of thoughts associated to the ringing of the bells that turned my attention to writing today. My thoughts were as follows:
1. These bells have been tolling every fifteen minutes for hundreds of years. - This should teach me persistence.
2. Although at this point I am reasonably sure that the bells are controlled electronically, but there was a day when someone had to be up in the middle of the night and be alert enough to ring the bells at the appropriate time and in the prescribed sequence. - This should teach me to be alert.
3. The bells reach the ears of thousands of people across the whole town. Whether they pay attention to what the bells are trying to tell them (the time) is up to the individual. The bells and those who ring them do not get to say, 'Let's not ring the bells because most of the people are ignoring them'. - This should teach me that it is the proclamation of the message that is important. If people want to lisen, that's up to them.
4. The bells are a beautiful but stark reminder of the passing of time. - This should teach me that time stops for no man and that I should heed the Bible's instruction to make full use of the time given to me.
5. The bells ring whether I want them to or not. (Believe me, when you can't sleep at three a.m. you don't want the bells ringing every fifteen minutes.) - This should teach me that I am not in control of the passage of time neither can I control those things in my life that point out to me that time is moving on -- like my slowly greying hair or the realization that those children I once taught in Sunday School are grown with children of their own. Most days I would like to control time. I would like to slow down the bells, but that isn't an option. I am not in control.
6. The sound of the bells flow down from the belfry of the church on the hill. - Although we know that the church building is not Heaven, the sound of the bells should remind me that the God, the Heaven, and the eternity that those bells represent are not simply to be some part of my life. Instead: God, Heaven, and eternal values are to become so entwined with my existence that even fifteen minutes cannot pass by without their importance crossing my consciousness.