Everything for the day is planned out and we are on our way, but then the flight gets canceled, and we are stuck again. Somehow, we keep thinking we can harness and manage time only to discover that time is not easily tamed by any of us. It aligns with a different metronome than ours and we are reminded once again that “we all live unexpected lives” as Matthew Kelly writes in Life is Messy.
From the time we are born we have a love/hate relationship with time. We love it when we are not waiting, on a vacation enjoying a favorite spot, or seeing a long-sought goal achieved. But we hate it when we need to wait, are caught up in the fast-paced grind of daily life, or recognizing we have far less of it than we had thought. We often are caught between wanting more and wishing it away.
Many who participated in scouts, or other such organizations were taught to always “be prepared”. What does that look like living in a world that is filled with the unexpected? Prepared for what?
It is a gift given from our Creator to somehow help us navigate through life with day and night, light and dark. Our conflict with time can tempt us to wish it away far too quickly. We want it to hurry up, slow down, or stop. In the process we forget that we each have a limited amount of it and don’t really know how much that is. That discovery doesn’t usually soak in until we are into adulthood unless some unexpected tragedy strikes us and reveals time seems to have cheated us of someone or something we thought we would enjoy for a much longer time. In that moment we may think it is something that only happens to us, but everyone faces a hard battle (sometimes many) at some point in his or her life.
Tragedies remind us to be prepared or better prepared.
Some of us were going about life and enjoying the space shuttle lift off again. We had seen them before and yet they still grabbed our attention. We were anticipating the process as the space agency announced each moment but then something we did not expect happened, something we were not prepared for, and the space shuttle Challenger exploded on live television coverage. There had been other tragedies as mankind sought to explore space beyond the realm of earth, but we thought we had sorted those all out until that day. Most of us can recall exactly where we were when this tragedy happened. (I was watching on TV with my students in my classroom.)
Those of us in the United States who are a little older remember exactly where we were the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. (I was on the campus of the university where I was attending classes.) We were stunned as it also happened on live TV. Weren’t assassinations something that happened in the past? Then others happened before we could fathom this one – Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy among them.
Images in tragedies haunt us. Anniversaries of those tragedies are noted and reviewed as we grieve the losses and hope for them to never happen again.
Most of you (no matter where in the world you may have been) still recall where you were at 8:46AM on September 11, 2001, when a plane crashed into the first tower in New York City. That was beyond our imagination, but evil was not done yet and a second plane would crash into the second tower minutes later and a third plane slammed into the Pentagon 40 minutes later. The fourth plane used in the attacks on the United States would never reach its destination as passengers (aware of the other events) sought to charge the cockpit and prevent the plane from being used as a weapon.
Those directly caught up in these tragedies were starting a day with other plans and places to be. Those of us watching had our day upended differently as well. How can any of us be prepared for something like this? We know evil has always been on the earth, but now we watch it unfold live on TV or other devices and it sears into our memories in unforgettable images. What did we do on those days?
We checked on everyone near and dear to us to see if they were okay and where they were. We were reminded that life is precious as well as uncertain. And many of us went to our places of worship to pray, seek comfort, and look to the only source we knew to turn to. We knew we needed One bigger than any man or woman. This was too much for us to handle on our own. Time stopped and interrupted those of us not directly involved.
But these are not the only tragedies that have hit us unexpectedly. Many personal ones have broken our hearts or shattered our dreams as well. Some known only to us. How could we prepare for those? They were unexpected.
We must come to grips with the knowledge that life is tenacious and fragile and we should not ever take it for granted. Each moment we are alive whether in good times or bad, we have cause to be thankful. We should make every moment count, not by scheduling every moment full of things to do but by loving well, forgiving more quickly, and not taking any interaction with someone else for granted.
And when the fog surrounds us and the darkness in the world deepens, we should remember we were warned life on the earth would become more and more as it is now. We were warned so we would not despair, but rather to look up with hope to the One who gave us the warning and be prepared for His return. He is and has always been the only One to handle such heavy weights and understands how to defeat evil.