In director Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman, there is a terrific scene in which Jack Nicholson’s character, The Joker, laments his inability to follow through on all of the evil schemes he has planned. As Joker dances around merrily, he chants a familiar mantra – “So much to do…so little time!” – and the camera pulls back to reveal that he has been spending several days (if not weeks) cutting up random photos and tossing all of his “work” on the floor.
That one shot, in my opinion, does more to convey the depth of this character’s insane break with reality than any of the more-aggressive, violent scenes found elsewhere in the film. The sheer pointlessness of his life comes through loud and clear. (Makes you wonder how the guy manages to hang onto any henchmen.)
One of the reasons that this particular scene lodges so deeply in my heart, other than several repeat viewings, is that I find in it a measuring stick of sorts for evaluating the “important” things that make their way onto my weekly planner. Again and again, like many of us, I can lose my way and fall into thinking that whatever I happen to be working on is truly important while whatever else is being foisted upon me in the present moment is “a distraction,” something annoying or unpleasant with which to dispense as quickly as possible.
In the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, I am struck again and again by the fact that Christ never seems to allow Himself to be taken off-task, “setting his face like flint,” all the while being constantly interrupted along the way. It’s tempting to think that the only reason He never got annoyed was because he was fully God, but I think in doing so we lose sight of the fact that He was also fully man, tempted in every way as we are…and yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
If anyone has ever held the right to judge His plans for the day as “more important” than that of the woman caught in adultery or the older woman who suffered for years with bleeding, it was definitely Jesus. The adulteress was thrown down in front of Him as he was trying to teach (John 8:1-11); the latter woman “got in the way” of His efforts to reach the house of Jairus in time to save a dying girl (Luke 8:40-56). Both times – and many others – we sense a break in continuity of the story. How dare this older woman reach out and touch Jesus’ garment without permission? No wonder the disciples respond so gracelessly.
One of my greater fears is that, when viewed from the vantage point of eternity, the vast majority of my life will look something like that scene with the Joker, as if I walked through it insanely cutting up pictures and complaining that I did not have more time in which to follow through on “my” plans. There are many, many days when I wake up determined to do whatever the Lord has for me that day, only to find myself greatly annoyed with someone who does not share my agenda…having completely forgotten it was God’s agenda I had committed myself to.
How often we assume that our hearts are fully submitted to the Lordship of Christ, when what we are actually doing with the time God has graciously bestowed upon us is an utter waste. It might not look so clearly crazy, like Nicholson’s character, but with the benefit of hindsight it will one day be shown as self-focused, self-interested and (usually) self-glorifying. Hope, for me anyway, is naming this tendency within my own heart and asking Jesus to show me what is behind the annoyance, the frustration or anger. More often than I care to admit, I will find that I have neglected His “ordained interruptions” and gotten all worked up over a trifle.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.