Wristwatches, smartwatches, atomic clocks, cellphones, microwaves, and the little slit in the dash of my 2002 4Runner have been making truth claims for a long time. They allegedly tell us what time it is. But they may have been telling us lies.
Tomorrow, and this isn’t the first time mind you, one of the 1,440 minutes that make up our day will be one second longer than the other 1,439 minutes. This phenomenon is called the “leap second” (don’t take my word for it, click this link and read it for yourself). Contrary to what you may have thought the earth is not rotating at a perfectly constant rate, in fact it is gradually slowing down. When I say gradually I mean that in the scientific sense, which means it is basically the same speed as always unless you’re a physicist or your O.C.D. has graduated from mildly annoying to epic.
This leap second seems appropriate right now. We live in a culture and time when many of what have traditionally been seen as “settled issues” are anything but settled. Every day, it seems, there are emerging new ways of thinking; some right and some wrong. New ways of understanding old issues are a part of life, but in the current evolution of American culture there is an addiction to redefining, re-understanding and reinterpreting long-held beliefs. It’s a sport in our nation, but one that is far more divisive than even the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry.
It occurred to me as I read the article on the leap second that we could all use a bit more room in our lives. We could all stand to take one more breath before launching into our tirades and diatribes. We would all be a bit better served to wait another day before erupting on social media or feeling obligated to share every blog, article and meme that vindicates our position and evicerates our opponents’. We are well served with a little more room simply because we might not always be as right as we think we are.
Now to be clear, I am not saying that, fundamentally, we are wrong. Most of us will never change our minds on the “big” stuff that we believe. But the “big things” are rarely where the most vitriolic contentions come from. For example, there has been a chasmic divide in our nation for quite awhile regarding homosexuality, whether it is right or wrong. But, with exceptions, we’ve basically learned to be civil with each other in the midst of our disagreements. However, when the Supreme Court’s decision was published last week there was a meteoric rise in hostility. Over what? Over the right or wrong of the matter? No. Over the nuances of how the matter is seen by the government? Yes.
Are those who believe homosexuality is wrong going to change their opinions? Most likely not. And neither will those who believe it isn’t wrong. But at the end of the day the question that Christians must ask ourselves around our dining room tables is not whether we still believe what believed yesterday (in all but the most unusual of circumstances we still embrace the same moral positions), but how we can love and serve the world in the most Christ-like way. This second question may require us to invite a leap second into our thinking. It may require us to provide a little wiggle room for ideas that we would, in our emotionally charged state, typically not take time to consider.
Even Jesus seemed to live His life based on the principle of the leap second. He often retreated from society to pray, to sit in His Father’s presence, to be nourished by the peace of solitude and to distill what He had experienced in the world and then prepare to respond to what He would face in the future. Though Jesus didn’t necessarily need to leave “room for error” in His life, He did live in such a way so He was able to see the world in a way that didn’t keep Him from truly and actively loving those people whom He disagreed with.
Maybe for many of us the most wise thing we can do is to invite a leap second into our lives. We will have one, like it or not, tomorrow in order to realign the clocks. Perhaps we can also take a moment today, in honor of the leap second, to realign our spirits and our minds, and allow the Spirit of God to show us a better way to be “in this world” even if we are “not of it.”