The Trouble with Time


Liam got into the car after school and said excitedly, "I invited Nathan to Disneyland!"

"Oh, well honey, we're not going to Disneyland for two years," I said gently.

"I know, Mama.  He said yes, and he's so excited!"

I realized two years meant nothing to him, so I tried, "That means that you will be seven before we go to Disneyland again."  I looked in the rearview mirror at Liam's shocked face.

"But Mama, I won't be seven until forever!  I'll be so old!"

Time is confusing; it's so hard to understand. I cannot count how often people have said to me that I need to appreciate this time that my kids are young because it will go by in the blink of an eye.  While I am fervently trying to do just that and finding this speedy-time theory to be achingly true, I still have those days where I look at the clock at 6:00pm and feel like it will be an eternity until the boys' bedtime at 8:30.  Time, for me, does not seem to pass at a consistant pace.  I understand Liam's frustration with it.

Last night I truly fell apart.  I cried like I haven't really cried before.  And what was tearing at me was time.  After ending a hellacious chemo week, the end of my chemo regimen in January seemed tortuously far away.   And more horrifying to me last night was the idea of surviving all this and living a long time without my mom.  What if I live to be an old woman (which is definitely my hope) and go forty years without my mom at my side?  Honestly that seems cruel and impossible.  She was such an intimate companion of mine through life that I feel adrift and cleaved without her here.

But after a little bit of sleep and a few hours of time in which God has been truly ministering to my aching heart, I am reminded of another conversation with my sage five-year-old son.

A few weeks ago I was crying (not unusual in my house lately).  Liam came up to me and wrapped his little arms around my neck.  He said these amazing, God-breathed words: "Mama, I know it seems like a long time before we'll see Grammie again, but when we finally get to Heaven, we will feel like it hasn't been very long since we've been together."  Out of the mouths of babes, right?

What Liam has so innocently identified is that time can be painful because we are temporal people and God is not.  He lives outside of time in eternity, which is too much for us to grasp while we're here on earth.  C.S. Lewis descibes it as God being the author and the world being his book.  We are characters in the book, and so we are ever marching forward to the book's culmination.  But God is not confined to the bindings holding those pages together.  He can come in and out of the book at any point.  Now God lovingly created us to be restricted by time, so he is gracious and understanding when it freaks us out; but he also wants us to be less daunted by it than we are.

Jesus said, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34). We were given life in 24-hour chunks for a reason.  Eternity, a lifetime, years and even tomorrow can be way too much for us to wrap our minds around.

I get that more than ever right now.  My doctor told me that without treatment, I would not live to see my 29th birthday, so I know time is precious.  I have months of chemo and at least three major surgeries ahead of me, so I know how scary dwelling on the future can be.  I had a beautiful, almost perfect 28 year-relationship with my mom, so I know what it means to treasure the past.  But one thing I am trying to do is believe Jesus when he says that to live IN one day at a time is the only way to go.

I'll end with the wise wise words of Master Oogway (the turtle) in Kung Fu Panda: "Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift.  That's why it's called the 'present'."

May you find the gift of the time you are in today.