The Beautiful Ugly Clock

“Broken Time” by Andrew Van Zyll
Check out his creative pursuits at
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God’s timetable: the clock is always 100% perfectly on time, but it’s an ugly clock.

I’m sorry – was that a little impious? Should I couch it in more Psalm-esque language? Yelling stuff like “HOW LONG, O LORD??” Nope – I’m stickin’ with hows I sees ’em.
I do not doubt God’s timing – in my limited, narrow view over the past 52 years…
(Come to think of it, it was more like 51, since that first year is pretty much a blur, an “eat, cry and poop fest.”)
(Come to think of it, that first year wasn’t so bad, except for the whole diaper thing…)
(Come to think of it, that’ll pretty much sum up most of my final years, I should think – up to and including the whole diaper thing…)
(Come to think of it, I think we’ve discovered that Cal really shouldn’t “come to think of” anything. Especially sitting in front of a computer keyboard. Ever.)
Anyway, I’ve seen God’s timetable work its perfect way in too many places to ever rail against it or deny its existence. Everything falls to His sovereignty, willingly or unwillingly. We can accept the roaring flow, go with it, or we can try to buck the tide and end up on our hineys, flying downstream, producing the kind of facial expressions captured for all time in those photo thingies they always take at the most horrific moment of the most mind-numbing amusement park rides, then sell you at a “bargain” price for this souvenir that will bring back wonderful memories for generations to come. (Like panic, screaming, and bile, to name a few.)
But just because I accept and surrender to God’s timetable does not change that fact that, in my limited and narrow view, it’s an ugly clock.
Maybe I see it as ugly because I simply have no way to read it or understand it… It’s like one of those LED clocks that tells the time in binary code, thus prompting smug looks from geeks and geeklets in the room, sharing their secret knowledge of being able to read the thing while us lower mortals wander in confusion…
Until we look at our phones, see the time, and get on with our uncaring agendas, leaving the geeks and geeklets frustrated, their lake of superiority dammed up with the concrete of indifference. Hoover dam, baby. Deal with it.
I stare at God’s clock with no comprehension. I can’t even see the whole face of the thing. The hands move in ways I can’t perceive; the units they measure have no meaning in my existence; and the outcome of its progress is beyond my understanding.
Now, I do admit that I’ve never been the sharpest chisel in the tool box when it comes to clocks. I didn’t learn to read the clock until fifth grade, even though I started reading at age 3. There was always someone around to tell me what time it was, so no need to learn the significance of “the big hand is on the 3, and the small hand is on the 8.”
Yes, no digital clocks. I am indeed that old.
Anyway, I came late to the party with the whole “learning to tell time” thing. I did make up for it later, when I started working in broadcasting. When one is responsible for every second of every minute of every hour of an air shift, you start to gain a sense of time passing, really understanding just how long it takes to do some things. Learning to read something out loud, so that it comes out to exactly 27 seconds (to allow 3 seconds for the music hit at the end) teaches you a lot about time. So does having to vamp the weather forecast when you have 30 seconds to fill, and a forecast that says “partly cloudy, partly cloudy, repeat repeat repeat…”
So I do understand how time feels.
And I think we all understand how time feels in the long, long silences when we think God has gone south for the winter. Those stretches of darkness where we wonder if we’ve ever really heard from Him at all. The heavy night curtain that falls after a long, sunny, extended period of His blessing, when things go from bright to dark faster than the switching off of a lamp in a basement room. We all, or at least most of us, understand how the dark rises up, immeasurably fast and overpoweringly strong.
At times, we believe that not only is God not in the same time zone as us, but that He’s changed over to another calendar, one where seconds, minutes, hours and even days and weeks are graded on a sliding scale. Where time itself becomes elastic, and it ebbs and flows in harmony with the One who exists outside of its steely grasp.
Time is NOT finite in the hands of the Infinite.
But we feel every dragging second in our small world.
Right now, I’m in a place where the clock is very ugly, moving so slowly that I have to fight the urge to keep replacing the battery, and it doesn’t show signs of changing anytime soon. I’m on the other side of almost two years of very fast change, where time flew beyond my ability to catalog it. I tried, vainly, to grab some small pieces of it, to note the events in these pages, to be aware and keep reminders before it all blew past, never to be seen again.
Then it all stopped. We got stuck in a holding pattern while the runway is being cleaned by three Oompa Loompas with toothbrushes. It’s gonna be awhile.
Meanwhile, to stir the pot of ugly clock soup, throw in a few years without employment, add in someone not wise enough yet to learn to live within his means, and whip into a financial frenzy.
** before Vicki or a few others jump in here, I probably should have said “gainful employment,” or something like that. I have been pursuing an occupation – learning my new life so that all the things that come with it become habits, a part of my normal life. It was necessary, it’s equipped me to live in this new body and keep it working well, and everything is happening exactly when it should. I just didn’t learn the bigger lessons, and I took a little longer to grow up, so it’ll take a little longer to dig out. **
Always on time, but it’s an ugly clock.
Sometimes, some of that ugliness is self-imposed, I’m discovering. The clock is ugly because it has a highly polished surface and shows me all the mistakes I’ve been making while the timetable moves on. Maybe the ugliness I see in the clock is just the choking regret I feel for lessons not learned, time lost, resources wasted, failures committed. In the mirror of the clock, I see my own ugliness.
I don’t think God intends us to look at ourselves in that harsh, unyielding place. With nothing between our limited viewpoint and infinity, how could we ever stand the sight? How could we perceive anything but LOSS… LOSSLOSS
“In the fullness of time, God sent His son…”
“God works all things together for good…”
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed…”
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36 (TNIV)
By itself, God’s timetable is perfect, always on time, always on track.
From my limited view, it’s an ugly clock.
From His view, He makes all things beautiful, even where I only see ugly…
In His time.

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