Startled Into Living

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets, once said that "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."

Over the last few weeks, I have been discovering the truth of this. I've never sensed the passage of time so keenly as I have in the past month or so.

In the weeks before Piper was born, time crawled. Days felt like weeks, and weeks like years, while at the same time I couldn't believe that I had been pregnant for nine months already, for they flew by in the busyness of what I needed to accomplish. When I went into labor, the hours became mere minutes. I didn't notice the passage of time as my contractions came harder and stronger. Everything in me was focused on the task at hand, and it didn't matter how long it took--it must be finished.

After she was here, that 5 1/2 hours seemed like a dream. Time stopped. I spent the next two weeks feeling as if I had just given birth the day before, reliving the experience, reeling in surprise that there was a baby with me, and she was mine. I kept telling myself to slow down, process what had happened and what I was feeling, think about how much my life was changing, write it down while it is still fresh.

Suddenly, time began to crawl forward again. I'm newly astonished each day as my helpless, fragile newborn is turning into a little girl right before my eyes, just as I was starting to adjust to her as a newborn. Shouldn't it take more time for her to develop and grow up? I can't believe she's already a month old!

Days with Pete at the office have suddenly become terribly short in the nursing/napping schedule Piper and I have figured out, and the nights pass quickly from one feeding to the next.

Time is no longer a luxury I may take for granted, and journaling and processing seems to be a neglected part of my life. I was telling a friend recently that I feel like I've hardly had time to feel, and that I'm just putting it off for a "later" that will never come. Yet perhaps it is not the loss that I think it is. I think maybe God has brought this new sense of time into my life so that I will actually live, instead of constantly trying to figure out what it means to live. I can't help it. I've been startled out of my complacency and swept off my feet into a life I can't help wanting to live.

Perhaps the "later" I hope to use for explaining and understanding my life won't happen, but I am starting to realize that if I don't use the *now* I have for living, I'm going to leave my life behind with little but regrets over how I didn't get to "truly live" the way I wanted to.

Sheldon Vanauken writes in his A Severe Mercy of time: "In the reality of Now the clock is always ticking. One might suppose, looking at the glossier advertisements of watches -- ever more exact, ever more spectacular flashings of the passing second -- that modern man considers time a lovesome thing or, possibly has a watch fetish. We might be better advized to hurl the lot into already-polluted Lake Erie.

"And yet, after all, the clock is not always ticking. Sometimes it stops and then we are happiest. Sometimes -- more precisely, some-not-times -- we find 'the still point of the turning world.' All our most lovely moments perhaps are timeless."

He goes on, "If, indeed, we all have a kind of appetite for eternity, we have allowed ourselves to be caught up in a society that frustrates our longing at every turn..."

"How strange that we cannot love time. It spoils our loveliest moments. Nothing quite comes up to expectations because of it. We alone: animals, so far as we can see, are unaware of time, untroubled. Time is their natural environment. Why do we sense that it is not ours?"

Time is often referred to as a thief, and thieves "[do not come] except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy," according to John 10:10. But Jesus said that He came "that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." For so long, I have wanted that: to just live. But I think I may have lost more of my life by my fear of the passage of time. I keep wanting it to slow down for me so that I can somehow catch up. But if I long for the timeless moments, perhaps it is that I am longing for eternity, eternal life, and that, Jesus said, is knowing the Father, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

My marriage, Piper's birth, the events of my life that have changed me and that will change me -- these are the moments I have been given. Perhaps I won't always get to record them or examine them or process them to my own satisfaction, but I think that if I live them without worrying about capturing them for eternity, I will remember what God has given me in them, and I will know that I have lived.


Bonnie said...

enjoyable thoughts, thank-you for sharing!

KSolarisL said...

These words so beautifully reflect my own thoughts... having a new life created inside of us has a way of turning our world up-side-down. Or maybe rather, right-side-up for for the first time.

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