Earthly life is fleeting.



The clock tick-tock-tick-tocked on the mantle. Ralph, the slightly graying husband had just finished a fast life of making money and enjoying weekends. Now his life was a weekend. He wandered into the kitchen for another cup of coffee. With the steam still wafting up from his cup, he looked again at the mantle. Cobwebs had formed along the left side of the clock. He wondered.

With the setting sun splashing across the sky, Ralph stepped out for a walk. Upon returning he saw that cobwebs covered the whole clock. Still it tick-tock-tick-tocked.

He must have mixed up the clock with his memory of something else. So he settled into his easy chair and tried to read the paper. Cobwebs, he thought. Cobwebs had formed on old clocks in his grandparents’ attic. But that was long ago, yet it seemed like yesterday. Maybe it was yesterday.

A knock at the door and his wife, Sarah, smiled across the room. “I don’t know where the time went!” she exclaimed. “Well, really I do, but it just seems so fast, doesn’t it?” Ralph smiled and rose to help her in the kitchen.

With a pot on the boil, he returned to his easy chair and stopped. Cobwebs had formed from top to bottom and arm to arm. Sarah saw him staring in shock and asked, “What’s wrong, Dear?”

“I—I was sitting in this chair five minutes ago. And now it’s got cobwebs all over it.”

“Oh, it wasn’t five minutes ago, Dear. It was five years.”

“Five years?” he repeated. “It couldn’t have been that long. Could it?”

She smiled and went back into the kitchen. When she returned he was still standing there. He looked at her. How she had suddenly grayed! His heart almost stopped. He ran to the mirror. Creases traversed his forehead; his cheeks had wrinkled and sunken. His hair too was completely gray. “I must be in a time warp,” he said.

“All of life as we know it is a time warp, dear.”

He tried to speak but just stuttered.

She continued, “We think we calculate time. But it calculates us.”

“Well, what about all the money I saved for retirement?”

“It’s all there, dear. But you’d better use it fast. You don’t have very long.”

He shook his head. “All those years. Where did they go?”

“It doesn’t matter where they went, dear. It only matters what you did with them.”

“What I did?”

“That’s the only thing that lasts, dear. If you didn’t do anything of lasting value, of course the years just disappear.”


“Maybe that’s what’s wrong, dear. You haven’t got anything left. It’s all disappeared. Did you really do anything of lasting value?”

“Well I thought . . .” Or so he tried but could not think of what.

“You thought. But mostly you were just busy, weren’t you? Too busy to really do much. Oh, Ralph.”

He stared at the clock tick-tocking, tick-tocking.

Sarah touched him. “Make the most of what you have left, Dear.” She smiled at him and left the room.

She did not come back.

Ralph ran outside and looked for someone—anyone who could tell him what to do. He tried to remember if he’d noticed anyone when he had taken his morning walk. But that was long ago. “If I did something good,” he said to himself, “would that be enough? Or am I missing something bigger?” What a thing to be wondering now.

Then he remembered, “God would know!” So he searched frantically for God. But with the clutter outside the house and in, and the clutter in his mind, he couldn’t remember who or where God was.

“Sarah!” he cried. But there was no answer.

Suddenly everything began to fade. Tick-tock-tick. . . . The clock stopped.

And as Ralph disappeared, there was only blinding eternity.

Then darkness.

God stood outside of the cobwebs and grieved for Ralph.


For Thought and Discussion

  • Read James 4:14, which says our life is but a “mist,” and Psalm 39:4-6, which says our life is “fleeting,” “but a breath.” In this parable time is telescoped to where the passage of years becomes the passage of moments. In fact in the above verses, that is how God sees it. How has your life seemed like a fleeting mist or breath? Have you squandered much of it by being overly busy and overlooking more important or eternal things?
  • Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90:12 is: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Since our days on earth are so short, we must learn to live wisely in the eyes of God. How have you learned to live more wisely in a biblical sense? Name one way in which you could live more wisely each day.
  • Read Psalm 103:15–17. These verses embody a “successful life,” the sting of dying and being forgotten, and the eternal joy following a life of submission and honor to God. What can you give yourself to (or are you giving yourself to) that has eternal value in the kingdom of God? Ask God to lead and fill you to make a difference for eternity.

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