November 13, 2010

About Time

I’ve been thinking about time. Young children seem to look forward to each and every day with delight and expectation. Every morning, the first questions Isabel and Noah ask are Where are we going today and what are we going to do? They are concerned with today and today only. Time is not linear to them yet, so when we tell them about an event that will happen in a few months their minds cannot wrap around this concept. Yesterday and tomorrow are barely making sense to them right now and they use the words interchangeably. They don’t worry about the future beyond this moment and they live in the freedom of that perspective.
 As we get older we begin to live from Christmas to Christmas and from birthday to birthday. When you are six years old a year is a sixth of your life and it seems like the time between one Christmas and the next is never-ending.  You begin to count days and weeks and months in a pattern that prepares you for the next stage of I can’t wait.
Early in young adulthood we fully enter the I can’t wait stage. I can’t wait to graduate from high school. I can’t wait to leave home.  I can’t wait to finish college. I can’t wait to start working. I can’t wait to get married. I can’t wait to have kids. It is as if we are never content with our current stage but are always looking to the distance future, to the greener-grass of tomorrow’s chapter.
Over the last few years I seem to have left the I can’t wait stage and have entered into a slower-paced, more reflective one. Lately, I have started to look for the button that will make time stand still. It seems the older I get the faster it flies. Don’t blink, Kenny Chesney tells us in his country song.
 I can’t wait to finish high school…I blinked and college welcomed me.
 I can’t wait to leave home…I blinked and I was an hour away from my mom, even when I was lonely and missed her.
 I can’t wait to finish college…I blinked and I was starting graduate school.
I can’t wait to start working…I blinked and my first year teaching had slipped away.
I can’t wait to get married…I blinked and we are celebrating our tenth anniversary next month.
 I can’t wait to have kids…I blinked again. Isabel will be five years old next month; Noah just turned three.
Now I don’t know how to stop blinking.
Time, please stop ticking. Please. Everything is going by so fast…
Yesterday we watched a movie called The Prince of Persia.
(If you have not yet seen this and are planning on it, tread carefully from this point forward; I am going to spoil it a little)
In the movie there is a magic dagger that holds the Sands of Time. If you press the handle you can go back in time one minute. There is said to be a way to make the dagger take you back in time much further than that.
I thought about this. I would not go back to change my choices or even undo my mistakes. I would not marry someone else, choose a different profession, or change anything in my life. I am the person I am because of what I have been, good and bad. My mistakes have taught me wisdom, compassion, and reliance on God for his grace, mercy, and forgiveness. My good choices have brought me blessings and a deeper understanding of God’s love for me.
But I would go back to enjoy the present more. I would go back and, rather than wait for the next instant to come, I would stop and live, really live in the moment.
I would slow my pace, savor the friendships, embrace the solitude, enjoy the family, not rush the new beginnings, discover the places, play with the baby, listen to the hurting, get to know the student.
 I saw an elderly couple a few days ago at the store. She was holding his hand as they walked across the parking lot. I thought about Matt and me, and silently prayed that God would allow us to grow old together. Time will not stop, I know that. In fact, if the last few years are any indication, it will march even faster on and on. I don’t have the magic dagger, I know that too. It doesn’t do me any good to pine for what was not.
But recently my eyes have been opened to these truths and so I’m faced with a choice:
I can keep looking back with regret, or I can keep my senses focused on the years to come and the can’t waits, and worrying about the future…
… Or I can finally learn to live for today again, like I did as a child, eyes wide open to the world around me, savoring every day with its challenges and unexpected blessings, asking the Lord every morning with delight and expectation Where are we going today and what are we going to do?

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