Time Slips Away…
As the song suggests, it is funny… how time slips away. I recently turned forty years old (not a typo – really). I can remember when forty sure seemed old – words like decrepit and feeble were associated in my mind with so advanced an age… Of course, now that I have reached forty I see that it isn’t so old after all… Even 50 doesn’t seem so old. 60 either. 70 is still a stretch, but if I live that long it probably won’t seem so old either. The fact of the matter is, the farther we are from an age (in prospect) the older it seems to us. But when we live we live today – now is the norm for us and we compare now to then and try to make some sort of assessment of how then will be based on what now is. When we get to then, though, it will be now – no longer then; and then will then be just as far from now as it now is for us.
I remember as a child attending a bi-centennial celebration for our nations 200th birthday (July 4, 1976). Someone (probably a politician) was making a speech and suggested that perhaps some of the children in attendance at that outing would be around for the tri-centennial celebration (in 2076). I don’t know what else he said, that set me to thinking (if it wasn’t for the pie eating contest an hour or so later I might still be there thinking…) I counted up the years in my mind and tried to determine my prospects of living until our tri-centennial year – I reasoned that since I was born in 1964 I would be one hundred twelve years old. At that point I pretty much knew that I had better get what enjoyment I wanted out of that big celebration, because I wasn’t likely to be around for the next one. But I thought further and pretty soon I found myself trying to imagine what life would be like in the year 2000. Orwell’s novel loomed in the background. Star-trek with its futuristic images contributed to my expectations. I did the math – 2000 minus 1964 equals 36. I distinctly remember feeling somehow cheated. I imagined myself in a wheelchair and bald and blind and barely managing to get around at so advanced an age. Of course, what did I know? I was only 12.
I am now in that period of life in which I am supposed to be the most productive. I am too tired to be mischievous and too young to be taken care of by Social Security so I am out there scratching and clawing my way to the top… Well, in theory anyway. I have never paid too much attention (as an adult) to age – despite my relentless references to the age of a certain friend of mine and my occasional reference to the 14 ˝ months that my wife lived before I was born… it is all in good fun. 40 years old – ten more than 30 and half of the span of the strong man of the psalmist. I went to bed 39 and woke up one day older. Yet the mind turns now (as it did when I was a little boy) to the future. How many years have I remaining in this world? I am not decrepit – not wholly, anyway. I do not currently use a wheelchair (although I do often wish one could be provided for long shopping trips and maybe visiting in the hospital). I see relatively well – what I want to see, anyway. I hear pretty much what I want to hear – and sometimes more than I care to. And, though some of the sentences in this short article might not prove it, I have about as much of a “right mind” about me as I ever had (for what that’s worth). But I am older than I used to be. Not only in calendar years, either. While life is not today as I feared it might be as a boy of 12 years contemplating the future, neither is it what it used to be. I have been here at Enon 12 years – well, I will be in May, Lord willing. I look and act and think and feel a lot differently than I did 12 years ago. That proves my humanity. It reminds me of my mortality. It is not so much any one big thing that has changed, but numerous little things. Bedtime used to be a decision – now it overtakes me ready or not… I used to do until I was tired and not worry about the effect of doing, now I must plan activities not so much on what I want to do today, but with special consideration given to what I must do the day after. I must admit that I am a bit perplexed by the passing of the years and the shape in which they have left me.
Sometimes I feel like the 12-year-old boy just woke up one morning and found he was 40. It didn’t happen that way, and I know that. I lived every minute of the intervening years. I have the scars to prove it. Life worked just as it was supposed to work; but still, where have the years gone? And, perhaps even more importantly, will they keep on going that way? And so quickly? I know they will. It must be so. They take their toll; of that there is no doubt. Sometimes it seems like the day or the week or the month will never end – but it is not so with years. They fly by. They linger nowhere for no one and no reason. James had a good question – “For what is your life?” He had a good answer, too: “It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Life is like fog (a vapour). We can see the fog well enough when it is here, but try to fill a bag with fog and save it for later – it cannot be done. While the fog is with us it is all around us – it prevents us from seeing someone a dozen yards away – and it prevents them from seeing us – but if you are only inches from someone you see them. The same fog that keeps the neighbor from seeing you does not prevent you seeing one right next to you. It’s funny that way. And life is a lot like that as well. The years are all around us now, but we cannot bottle them for the future. We have them and then they have us. Life ends for us and we go the way of all the earth.
I lived to see the new millennium – and like my fortieth birthday, I went to bed in the old millennium and woke up in the new and didn’t notice a lot of change… I am not counting on being here for the tri-centennial – and I am not losing any sleep over that either. I saw the bi-centennial (and, by the way, lost miserably in the pie eating contest; but I did have a lot of fun losing). I have seen births and weddings and deaths. I have experienced the first two of those myself and shall experience the third someday. I cannot imagine how quickly the last 40 years seemed to pass – and if my portion of another 40 goes as quickly death will visit before I will realize it. What is a man to do? He is to prepare for it. When are preparations to be made? Well, we can’t prepare yesterday, for it is gone. We can’t prepare tomorrow – for it is always out there somewhere, never realized, never overtaken. What have we left? Today. Now is the accepted time. This is the day of salvation – today – it is the only day we have. All other days we “had” or “hope for” – only today is our own. Have you prepared for eternity?
Tim Smith 1272 Enon Road Webb, AL 36376 (334) 899-8131 (334) 790-0137