This will, for a certainty, date me. But I have lived long enough to say I remember Timex watch commercials. Newsman John Cameron Swayze became the pitchman for Timex watches, coining the phrase, “It takes a licking, but keeps on ticking.”
The commercials, which continued for 20 years, featured Mr. Swayze presiding as the watches were subjected to various kinds of abuse, only to emerge intact. In one commercial, a watch was strapped to a tackle line and cast off a deep-sea fishing boat. And one commercial made in Hawaii showed a watch attached to the pontoon of a plane that landed on the water. And at the end of every challenge, when John Cameron Swayze held the watch out so the camera could get a good close look at that Timex? Sure enough, it was still ticking.
The most memorable Timex commercial, though, was broadcast live during the Steve Allen show in 1958. A watch was fastened to the propeller of an outboard motor and the motor was then started in a tank of water. But when Swayze reached for the watch after the test, so he could show the waiting camera and the millions watching LIVE on television that even though that watch had taken a licking, it had kept on ticking? It was gone. It came off the propeller during the LIVE broadcast. Without missing a beat, he said that it was probably still ticking at the bottom of the tank.
Most watches don’t ‘tick’ anymore, even if they’ve taken a beating. No, the watch I wear every day doesn’t ‘tick.’ But it sure does a lot of other things. For example, it tells me what the current temperature is outside of my location. If I drive to a different town during the day, my watch keeps track of my location, and tells me how hot or cold it is outside. My watch keeps track of how many calories I’ve burned in my activities for that day. If I want to know how many steps I’ve taken today? (Im supposed to take 2000 steps a day, minimum) My watch reminds me of my failure to walk enough.
My watch monitors my heart rate, too. (Right now, I’m sitting down, and my watch says my resting heart rate is 68 BPM (or, beats per minute.) I can read my email on my watch. I can even answer my phone on my watch. I can get news alerts, or text messages, or the score to the Cardinals games on my watch. If I lose my phone, my watch will help me find it. If I lose my way? My watch will give me a map to follow, so I can get to where I’m going. There is one thing, however: My watch is battery-powered. I have to set it on a charger every night, so it will be ready to go every morning. If I forget to plug it in? Well, then it won’t count how many steps I’ve taken, or how fast my heart is beating, or what the current temperature is.
I don’t know what John Cameron Swayze would say about the watch I wear, every day. He might think if I want to know the temperature outside, I could just open the door and stick my head out? Who knows. He might wonder why, if I’ve lost my way, I don’t just stop and ask someone who knows the directions to where I’m going. He might even wonder what’s the big deal about how many steps I’ve walked today? And he probably would have a real problem with a watch that runs out of power; a watch you can’t wind all by yourself.
Don’t know what kind of watch you wear. It may be fancy and expensive. Or, it may be a simple timepiece. It may count the beats of your pulse, but it will never perceive the cry of your heart. In the world we are now living, confusion, doubt, fear are almost palpable. Our lives seem infinitely more fragile and uncertain than some ticking watch. No simplistic catch phrase in the midst of our challenges will bring certainty. A watch can take a licking, but when the wheels start coming off in life … and there are days when my heart rate is racing, rather than resting? I am determined to look to the God of All Time.
Isa. 57:15 in the New Living Translation: “The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”