Life moves pretty fast.If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
– F. Bueller, philosopher
According to the trustworthy scholars at Wikipedia, the Latin phrase “Tempus fugit” was first found in book 3 of Virgil’s Georgics. There it means, “it escapes, irretrievable time.”
Or more simply put, “time flies.”
If I have one complaint to file with God, it would be how fast time goes by.
For example, my wife and I are now on our second set of kids. We adopted two baby girls and are raising them now in our 50s. They are currently 6 and 7 years old, and from our first batch of children, we know how precious this time is in their lives. We know to “live in the moment,” “make a memory,” and every other cliché people toss at you about parenting.
But already, the tender parts of their little lives appear to be rushing past us at a blinding rate. I feel my right hand instinctively reaching for some imaginary remote to push “pause” on everything that is so beautiful in their lives now.
Too often, I’m finding happiness is something you don’t know you’ve got while you’re in it. It’s a phantom creature you only realize was nearby in hindsight. And, by then, it’s too late to enjoy it.
At this present moment, my girls both adore me…and who can blame them! No, seriously, I know this is a passing phase. Right now, everything I say is hilarious, interesting, and important to them. They long for time with me and hang on me for affection. It’s wonderful.
But I know one day soon the only reactions I’ll get are an eye-roll and a shrug. They’ll see through my spotty character, my overreactions, my self-righteousness, and see me for the pitiful man I am. For we are all truly pitiful men. We are only blessed to have women around us who overlook a million inadequacies and forgive us every day.
Yep, one day they’ll see me with clear-eyed realism. My best dad jokes will no longer make them laugh, and the only time I’ll see them will be passing through on the way to something they’re much more interested in.
So right now, my wife and I make mental notes of things we’ll soon miss. We’ve had them with all our kids:
The way their favorite thing is simply to snuggle with us in bed and watch a movie. The way they curl up to fit right in the curve of your side.
How they find your fat stomach fascinating instead of repellant, and try vainly to stick their entire head into your belly button.
The cute little ways they have of misunderstanding and mispronouncing words – “how wuuuuuude!” instead of “rude”, how one of them always called the city of Gatlinburg “Gatlinbird.”
The sound of a pacifier squeaking in the darkness as it is sucked by your baby, who’s making her way around the room in the dark like a homing beacon before she sneaks into your bed late at night.
All these moments are whipping past me like my 25-year-old son in his orange sports car, leaving supper as quickly as possible to hang with his friends. That makes me wonder why God didn’t give us about 200 or 300 years to experience these invaluable pleasures, instead of watching them evaporate after just a few blissful moments.
These are the things I argue about with God these days, among others. Life is so transient, so maddeningly temporary, and that makes me mad sometimes. But I’m beginning to realize God sees it differently.
In the pushback God gives me, he reminds me the life I’m living is not the one he meant for me. That life was the one “in the garden” of Genesis. In that idyllic existence, I was never supposed to get old and die. There was only supposed to be eternity together without fear of separation. As God created them, the good times were truly meant to last. We screwed that up by asking our own heavenly “Dad” for the keys to drive our own lives right out of his perfect paradise.
He knows what it’s like when the kids decide they’re too smart for you and leave.
When we left to do our own thing, we left him behind. And that’s where he waits for us today. He’s waiting for the day his kids return home again. So I’m comforted by the fact he must know how I feel as my own children slowly slip away from me. But in the last chapter of the Bible, he reminds us he’s keeping the porch light on for us. There’s once again a garden with a tree at the center of it, like before. Just like it was supposed to be…
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5
Since this world is imperfect, fallen, and filled with death, God has made this a purposely short ride. Why?
Quite simply, so the pain will not last too long.
All the suffering in the world only lasts a short lifetime for each of us. Imagine if God let this mess go on for hundreds of years for each of us. Rejection on top of abandonment, disappointment on top of betrayal, for centuries and centuries to torture us.
(As the lady said) “What fresh hell” indeed.
This life is short because it’s meant to be as quick and painless as possible. This life is one of tests and trials, and is mercifully as short as God could stand to watch us squirm through it. Recognizing our pain must continually break his fathering heart. I watch my own dad now, who continues to miss my mom, though she passed over 5 years ago. He doesn’t want to be happy without her. He dares not wish to “get over” her passing. So I can’t imagine him continuing to miss her for decades on end.
No, how painful that sustained grief would be. Thank God time really does fly.
God meant for us to live forever with him in continual bliss. So he gets this life and it’s hard lessons over with ASAP.
Perhaps we should stop thinking it’s such a tragedy when people die young. We say they’ve missed out on so much, as if there is nothing more for them after this life. How arrogant of us to think this is all there is!
Though it’s most certainly a heartbreak for their families, a short visit to this planet may have been a blessing if they know Jesus. God’s simply picked up that magical remote I keep reaching for and fast-forwarded them home, where we’re all headed.
That’s the place where we’ll never want to look for the remote. There, every precious moment will finally last forever. Just as God intended it in the garden.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.