Lately, there has been this essence in the air, this matter hanging heavily and lingering around me until it lands atop my shoulders. It’s unmistakably identifiable. Time is his name. More often than not, he passes quickly, leaving only a trail of dust in the path he has just torn through. He whizzes right by us, fleeting at full speed, unable to catch, or hold hostage. He’s one of those undercover characters, lurking in the background, hidden from reality, two-steps ahead of everyone else. He’s a bandit in an outlaw movie, committing his crime and gone with the wind before the law shows up. These are the days, that turn into weeks that turn into months and years. But every once in a while, he shows his face. Something happens in your busy, non-stop, chaotic life to stop you in your tracks. A left-hook comes across your blindside and knocks you out cold. You hear an unfortunate story from a friend or co-worker about a lost loved one or a tragic accident and suddenly the light bulb turns on. Or you just wake up one ordinary day and realize it’s actually November, when summer seems like yesterday. These moments are few and far between, but in spite of the news they bring, they are moments of God’s grace. And like I said, Time has been hanging around recently.
It started with a story I heard during choir practice at church last week. We were sharing prayer requests and someone brought up a tragic accident that happened in a town outside Bowling Green. A farmer was driving a tractor and was hit by a train and killed as he crossed over the railroad tracks. I also heard more of the story in one of my classes the next day from a fellow classmate who knew the man and the family. The gentleman was a solo farmer of about 2,000 acres, leaving behind his seventeen-year old son to now take over the farm. Supposedly, he was on his cell phone at the time, or had just finished talking with his brother before the accident occurred. Such a sad and heartbreaking story made me think about that man. I wonder if his conversation with his brother was a positive one. I wonder if he left his house that morning in good spirits. Then came the thought that always creeps in when something disastrous happens … what if one person, one friend, had stopped him to say hello as he was getting a cup of coffee at the gas station? He would have been another minute behind and that train wouldn’t have taken his life. But when thoughts like this surface, I have to point my eyes to the sky. God has a plan. In crimes, accidents, and tragedies, there is no explanation other than God’s plan. He has reasoning for everything that happens. My mom also got news last week of her older cousin, Val, dying in a motorcycle accident. He lived in Texas with most of her family, and she had not seen him in years. The human race cannot explain, justify, or try to understand why bad things happen to good people in this world, all we can do is trust and believe. When time is cut short, it is at the hand of God. And it signals a wake-up call to those affected.
Another recent event that spurred my meeting with time, was registering for my last semester of college classes. It wasn’t until then, that I truly realized how rapidly it was all coming to an end. In just six months, “college days” will be a term of the past. I remember, vividly, the day I left California, drove away with a rearview mirror filled with eighteen years. It feels so close, so fresh in my mind, that it doesn’t seem possible that three years has passed since I planted my feet in the Kentucky ground and walked into my first class freshman year. But like a thief in the night, time has flown, swept the days and the years from beneath me, leaving me with only memories.
I think now of my Cade, who loves me more than I can imagine. At this moment, I picture him tossing and turning in a bed not made for comfort, as he tries to get some sleep in Afghanistan. Eight months he’s been there. Eight months in a God-forsaken, desolate, un-homey environment. He has necessities: shelter, food, a hot shower, clean clothes. He has bare luxuries like internet and television. But he has no family, no holidays at home, no hugs, no kisses, no home-cooked meals, no handshakes and hellos on Sunday morning, no welcoming arms. How do you think a soldier values time? Time missed with children, with spouses, with parents. Time missed on Christmas morning, or on family vacations, or in moments of laughter. Time missed to wake up every morning and feel safe. These are months and years a soldier will never get back. And when they step foot on U.S. soil, run to their loved ones they’ve been away from so long, and wrap their arms around them for an hour without letting go … time stands still.
These stories and thoughts have come unwelcomed, but they have impacted me for the better. Most days I take for granted. The sun comes up and it goes down, and the cycle starts over again. We stay busy in a fast-paced and rushed society, giving no contemplation or acknowledgement to the world and people around us. It takes something tragic, something unfortunate or inconvenient, something big, to bring us to a screeching halt and make us take a step back. Then those days we just let pass us by, we want back. Knowing that the past can’t be re-written, that a friend, or loved one, or stranger is gone forever, that those days are behind us, we must face time. We are given time to mourn, time to pray, time to move on, time to change, time to believe, and time to thank God that we are here, living and breathing, ready to make the most of each minute we have left with time.