--Virgil, Roman poet
It was an absolutely perfect, God blessed and God given moment. One which was never before. One which will never happen again. Within that time, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. And then…it was gone, forever.
Tempus fugit—time flies.
The moment? A Saturday morning breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, with my six year old Goddaughter Bridget, at a suburban Midwest family restaurant in a strip mall. Not exactly gourmet offerings or a five star location. The toll house bits were melted and gooey on the flapjacks and ended up smeared across her smiling face too. The tabletop was covered with sticky remnants of maple syrup from diners long gone. Our waitress was kind and sweet as she served us on that bright and warm May day, just three weeks ago. She snapped a photo of us two, a moment frozen in place, captured for all time, but firmly anchored in just one time.
I visit Bridget and her family each year and this time she insisted we have a special outing together, just the two of us, and so I told her to pick anywhere she wanted to go for brunch. We ate and she talked to me about the life of a kindergartner, her friends at school, how t-ball would start soon, the summer camps she was excited to attend. And then in a little under just one hour, it was all over. When you eat breakfast with a hungry kid, there’s no lingering. Before I knew it Bridget had gobbled up all her pancakes and washed it down with a large glass of cold chocolate milk. Hey—if you’re going to do chocolate, fully commit! And then we were off to the used bookstore, to browse the stacks and find a good story for later that day.
An undeniably perfect moment. And it will never, ever, ever happen again. Not in that exact way. Not in that exact place or at that precise time, May 24th, 2014, 10:35 to 11:30 am. Bridget and I will never pass that way again. We “lived” there, in that slice of time and then it departed and faded away to memory.
Tempus fugit. But what a time.
Time is among the oddest and most vexing and mysterious of human constructs and gifts from our Creator. We can’t contain time or stop it or slow it down or speed it up and all the technology in the world cannot alter this fact. As time finite beings, we are ruled by time, all the time. Our bodies age and our kids grow. Seasons change. The world revolves. Days go by and the months and the years too.
“Wasn’t it just yesterday I was rocking Bridget to sleep in my arms, pushing her in the stroller around the neighborhood so she’d fall asleep?” Wasn’t it just a moment ago you went to kindergarten, or you watched your son toddle off into that big classroom for the first time, or you shed a tear of pride and gratitude watching your daughter graduate from college or walk down the wedding aisle or feed her new baby? All perfect moments. But moments nailed to specific times. Time flows on. We float along in its inexorable stream. See that beautiful scenery along the river? Pay attention. In a moment it will be lost in time.
So: are we awake to, aware of, alive within, all these precious and perfect moments, like my chocolate chip pancake moment? I’m not so sure.
The arrogance and sin of modernity tempts us to believe we can have it all and even worse, we can do it all, and all in, and all on, time, time. In fact, time be damned. We can work too much and play too little and not pay the price. We can rush, rush, rush from one event to another in an insane marathon of games and parties and practices and rehearsals and deadlines and meetings and fit it all in, right? We wear the badge of “busyness” like a medal. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me, “How are you?”, that I did not automatically answer, “Wicked busy!”, or offer a similar response. And so instead of being right here, right now, in this one perfect moment, too often we run. We sprint, thinking that if we just go fast enough, time won’t catch up to us.
Well guess what? Time always wins. Always. And the saddest regret at life’s end, when all our time runs out? “I wish I had spent more of my time….” Only you can fill in that blank. But today there is more time, 24 hours, 1,440 moments to be exact. If we are blessed enough and wise enough to understand this fact, maybe, just maybe, one of those moments will be absolutely perfect. Like a pancake breakfast on a Saturday morning.