James Taylor famously crooned, “The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.” As I inch ever closer to my own half century mark on this rotating rock, I think there’s something to that. As much as we try, there is no way to slow down the clock, to travel backwards in time.
This year marks twenty years of marriage for me and my wife. It also marks ten years since I lost my mom and ten years since my daughter was born. It seems that despite our greatest efforts, there is no way to control the fact that at any given moment in life, we will be experiencing both joy and heartache. My own experience has been that behind every celebration could very well be a tragedy and vice versa.
As I grow older, I feel like I’m learning that the word “pivot” has fully entered into my vocabulary. For years, I think the word “hold the line” seemed to define my approach better. Encounter something difficult or challenging and challenge it back, fight against it, refuse to accept it. While that’s admirable and sometimes necessary, I felt like it was more of a rebellious lack of acceptance of reality than a defiant and bold commitment to press on through the muck.
We cannot change what has been but we can change how we move on from there. We can pivot and continue to change our outlook and our approach.
The Book of Job, the character in the Bible known for his difficult season of loss and difficulty, contains words from his friends that were supposed to have been encouraging to him, or at least help him shake out of the funk he found himself in.
His friend, Bildad, said in Job 8, “Ask the former generation and find out what their ancestors learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.” Not the most encouraging of words, especially for someone who has lost just about everything.
At the same time, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “He (the Lord) is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” That’s a little more comforting to me than the words of Job’s friend. Before time, God was. When time is over, God will be. Before the difficulties came into our lives, before time began to drag us through this mortal coil, God was, in fact, he set the clock in motion.
Like I said, I’m getting better at accepting this, but I can’t say that I like it always. My oldest is starting high school in the Fall. Next month will mark a decade since I lost my mom. Just over 20% of my life has been spent without my mom, and it will just increase from here. That’s a difficult reality to accept, but accept I must, because what’s the alternative?
The Apostle Paul encouraged the church in Ephesus to redeem the time for the days are evil. He understood the passing of time. That word “redeem” could be literally translated “to buy out of,” in other words, drawing out meaning and purpose rather than fighting and complaining.
This is a season of transition for so many people. The pandemic seems to be on the retreat. The school year has ended. Some have graduated from elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or even grad school. Time marches on and like old JT sang, embracing and enjoying it may just be the better approach.
That doesn’t mean that we sit back and let time trample all over us. It means that we do what we can to redeem moments and days, to buy the meaning out of those moments that we experience. Because when we take this approach, I firmly believe that as the clock ticks off all those seconds, minutes, hours, and days, it can allow our vision to be clearer for the things that really matter to us.
As I look back over the time spent with my own parents, the moments that were the most significant were not the ones that had been carefully curated and planned, but the ones that were embraced, especially when things didn’t go as planned or as we had hoped that they would.
Maybe holding our plans loosely and pivoting when things don’t turn out the way we had hoped is a better approach. I think of it more like a soap box derby than a NASCAR race. In NASCAR, you can control your speed and direction. In a soap box derby, you mostly let gravity do its work, pulling you down the hill. You glide and slightly steer your way down, but to think that you have total control is probably delusional.
As you face whatever transitions lie before you, embrace the soap box derby. You can’t steer as much as you think, but you’re also not helpless to do your best as you pivot at the obstacles along the way.