Time, in Rome, either pulls you back or anchors you in the present. As you recover from jet lag, you wonder what the kids are doing now, i.e. seven hours from now, back in Dallas. Then you gaze at the Colosseum or the Forum and wonder, “How did they build that 2000 years ago?” or “What would it have been like to stand here and watch Caesar lead his army down that very street following another year-long military campaign? But now, a clock reminds you that you have only ten minutes to exit before it closes for the day. The trance is broken.
For some reason, the theme that linked all my experiences in Rome last week was time. Not only does time roll backward over millennia with nostalgia, but it stamps the present with expectation. Wondering about “back then” gets punctured by the demands of now. Rome has long carried the title of “Eternal City,” but the ruins speak of a glory faded, a power past, and a dominion reduced to an echo of its earlier thunder.
The initials “SPQR” which announced the approach of Caesar’s army, now labels the manhole covers of the city’s utility system. The “Golden City” of Nero now hosts a dog park along side partial walls that require a guidebook to imagine the magnificent buildings of a self-proclaimed, all-sufficient power.
In contrast to this “transitory eternality” of a once-reigning world power stands quietly the universal sovereign rule of the One Eternal Creator God. The Eternal City does not look so eternal. The One who is truly eternal does not display himself in stones and monuments. The remnants of the city that would like to have been eternal simply set the stage for the ultimate meaning of “eternal,” which is a mere intrinsic characteristic of our Lord.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is an eternal God, the creator of the whole earth. He does not get tired or weary; there is no limit to his wisdom. Isaiah 40:28