The ego and the Holy Spirit have very different ideas of what time is for. Let's contrast the two different views. First, let's see what the ego thinks about time's purpose.
The Ego's Purpose For Time
First and foremost, the ego believes that time is intended for the accumulation of guilt. The ego's intent is to lay so much guilt on us that we are consumed by it, seeing only that we deserve eternal damnation (T-15.I.7:6-7). There's a reason for that: guilt seems to prove that we are really separate from God, and therefore to prove that the ego is real.
In a similar vein, A Course in Miracles says that the ego uses time to bring about destruction and death (T-15.I.2:6-8). God is the source of life. Therefore, in the ego's warped thinking, if we die we must be separate from God. Our death, to the ego, is the ultimate proof that the separation is real. Although it may claim many lofty goals, the ego has no other real goal in time but our death (T-12.VII.13:2-6).
This is why the Course says that when we are identified with the ego, our function in time is destruction. How we perceive our own function determines how we perceive the purpose of time, so the ego's belief in our guilt, worthy only of death, causes us to look back at the past with guilt, and to look toward the future with dread, fearing punishment. Meanwhile, we totally overlook the present moment, which is where our salvation lies (T-13.IV.9:6-7)
The ego is attempting to use time to replace eternity (T-28.III.7:4). It sees the past as an ever-increasing well of guilt that maintains our sense of separation from God, which guarantees the continued existence of the ego (T-13.IV.8:1-3). Our identification with the ego traps us in time and keeps us from eternity; the ego's interpretation of time keeps us identified with the ego. It's like a Chinese finger puzzle: the harder you pull to get away, the tighter the trap. The Holy Spirit wants to free us from the trap.
The Holy Spirit's Purpose For Time
In direct contrast to the ego, to the Holy Spirit time has only one purpose: healing (T-9.III.8:3). We can begin to appreciate this only when our perception of our own function is transformed:
You, too, will interpret the function of time as you interpret yours. If you accept your function in the world of time as one of healing, you will emphasize only the aspect of time in which healing can occur. Healing…must be accomplished in the present to release the future (T-13.IV.9:1-4).
The importance of time's purpose cannot be overemphasized. Our concept of what time is for, what our lives are for, and what our very being is for, needs radical realignment. If this does not change-if we continue to be guided by the ego's dark belief in our guilt, in which this world functions as a place of punishment-we will never find God, and we will never find our Self. Does that seem like an overstatement? If so, consider these words from the Course:
Until you see the healing of the Son as all you wish to be accomplished by the world, by time and all appearances, you will not know the Father nor yourself (T-24.VI.4:3).
Notice: it says "all you wish to be accomplished." It isn't enough to see healing as the primary purpose of everything; we must come to see it as the only purpose of everything in the world of time. There is another purpose for things in Heaven, of course: creation, the extension of God's loving Being forever and ever. In time, however, healing is everything.
Do you go through your days with this mental orientation governing everything you think and do and say? I know I don't! Yet, training us to have that orientation is the intent of the Holy Spirit's curriculum (T-1.I.15:2). The purpose of time falls under the general rubric of "healing," but that broad category has many sub-categories or aspects. For instance, release.
The Holy Spirit uses time to release us from guilt, from our illusions, and from time itself (T-13.IV.7:3-4; T-13.IV.8:3-4). That should be our purpose every minute of the day, in every situation we encounter. "How can I use this situation, or this moment, to free myself and everyone from guilt? How can I counteract our belief in separateness?" Forgiveness is perhaps our most powerful tool in using time constructively (T-26.V.6:1). Many lessons in the Workbook teach us this kind of moment by moment offering up of our time to God (W-pI.194.3:4).
The purpose of time is solely to "give you time" to achieve this [right-minded] judgment. (T-2.VIII.5:8, see sentences 5-11).
Our minds need to be healed of their condemning judgments, particularly our judgment of ourselves. The Holy Spirit is training us to recognize that only our loving actions represent us truly.
Jesus wants us to devote our entire life to spiritual practice. The word "miracles" is another way the Course refers to its healing purpose. If we dedicate our days to offering miracles to others we are using time well. To offer a miracle means to look upon our brothers and sisters with healed perception, to see them without guilt and still in union with God, their Source (T-1.I.15:1-2; T-15.I.12:4-5).
How To Use Time Well
Not Using Time for Controversy or Mere Theory
One definite negative use of time very pointedly addressed by the Course is arguing about points of theology or cosmology. In its discussion of reincarnation, it clearly identifies what it calls "senseless conflicts" as a waste of our time: "Theoretical issues but waste time, draining it away from its appointed purpose" (see M-24.4:1-5 and also W-pI.96:5:4-6:6).
Spiritual Practice: The Workbook
With shameless self-approbation, the Course refers to the time spent in practicing its Workbook lessons as "using time for its intended purpose" (W-pI.rIV.In.7:1-3). Therefore, one of the very best ways we can use time for the purpose of healing is to diligently do the practice exercises laid out by the Workbook. Some of them take what seem like a big chunk of our time. There is a series of lessons that asks us to spend five minutes out of every waking hour practicing with the idea for the day. The Workbook often points out that we have spend years practicing the ideas of the ego, so we have no reason to complain at being asked to spend a few minutes practicing God's thoughts.
When we get it through our thick skulls that healing ourselves is the only purpose of time, spending one twelfth of every hour in specific healing practice seems like a lenient request. When the Workbook stresses the need to "set apart…time for God" we need to take it seriously (see W-pI.65.4:1-3). As I have often remarked, it really means it. Taking the time it asks us to take is a crucial, even central, part of our healing.
At first we do not realize how beneficial such practicing is. We pause for a minute or two or ten, and it seems as though nothing has happened. The Course stresses that every time we stop the onrush of our lives to turn our thoughts to God and to healing, healing happens. Our minds are brought nearer to awakening, even if it is just a little bit, and "sometimes a thousand years or more are saved" (W-pI.97.3:2-3).
Pausing for Holy Instants
The formal practice periods of the Workbook are not really enough. They are training periods, representative of the state of mind that is supposed to permeate our entire lives. The way we extend the benefit of the lessons into the rest of our day is by stopping from time to time to seek a holy instant, to draw our awareness away from the external world and in to the quiet center of our being. By periodically and frequently reconnecting with spirit, and experiencing our true freedom from guilt, we can sally forth into the rest of our lives with much greater spiritual impact (T-15.I.9:1-7). As we interact with other people, we can inwardly pause, even if only for a second or two, to remember our true purpose and to extend healing forgiveness to those with whom we interact (T-15.I.13:1-3; T-15.I.15:10-11).
Going To God
We practice time's true purpose when we offer mercy to those around us. We also practice it when we simply give a few moments to God.
How often have you decided to forego meditation, prayer, or some other spiritual practice because "I don't have time"? I know it happens to me all the time. If I truly realized what time's purpose is, would I make those same choices? Would I put eating breakfast before prayer? Would I have time to watch TV but not to meditate? Would I make dusting more important than seeking my quiet center?
Let us together, then, be glad to give some time to God today, and understand there is no better use for time than this (W-pI.127.7:2).
Seek Salvation in Every Encounter
When we know the purpose of time, every time we meet another person presents an opportunity for healing to occur in one or both of us (T-8.III.4:1,6). The Course explicitly urges us to "not leave anyone without giving [and receiving] salvation" (T-8.III.4:7). Imagine yourself really practicing this for the rest of today, or tomorrow! Suppose you mentally offered a blessing to everyone you met, and asked a blessing from them. How would that affect your day?
To do this we have to be willing to let go of the past. Remember, the ego is trying to focus our attention on the guilt of the past, both ours and our brother's. When we meet a brother, if our mind is dominated by the past, we will be full of judgment and reservation. Love will be hindered or blocked entirely. Sharing salvation with this person would seem impossible. But when we focus on "How can I use this present moment for healing?", miracles occur (see T-13.IV.6.7-10).
Seeing All Things As Lessons
"All things are lessons God would have you learn" (W-pI.193.9:1). When we understand time's real purpose, we will know this is true. Every situation offers us an opportunity for healing. Every person we meet gives us the chance to extend mercy and forgiveness, and to offer blessing instead of attack.
When we follow the practice program the Course espouses, we start each day with a dedicated time of spiritual practice that is intended to set our minds on the right path for the rest of the day. We enter into the day approaching every occurrence, every situation, every person, every obstacle, every setback, every experience whether outwardly joyous or sad, as a training ground in which we learn mercy, love, forgiveness and healing. We realize that this is what all of it is for; it is why we are here. We let go of trying to use time for our own foolish purposes and we give it all to God, gladly, joyously.
We will attempt today to overcome a thousand seeming obstacles to peace in just one day. Let mercy come to you more quickly. Do not try to hold it off another day, another minute or another instant. Time was made for this. Use it today for what its purpose is (W-pI.193.11:1-5).
At the passing of each hour we will stop, and rededicate our time to God. Any grievances or loss of peace we have held on to during the past hour, we will address and relinquish, so that we can enter the next hour clean and unencumbered. We let the past hour go and look with anticipation at the healing that will occur in the one to come (W-pI.193.9:1-12:5).
Truly accepting that time has no purpose but healing will transform you!