If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
I used the popular lyrics as the basis for a graduation speech in high school in the 80s. (“Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce, anyone?) The words had much different meaning to an 18-year-old invincible kid with all of life stretching before me, addressing all my fellow invincibles. Time seemed like air, abundant and free. I lamented the change that high school graduation would bring. I somehow knew that old friendships would fade and disappear, or at least change immensely.
But time itself did not seem so valuable then. We all thought we had endless amounts of it. Unless we allowed ourselves to glance over at the empty seats reserved for the two classmates who did not live long enough to graduate. As for me, I didn’t dwell on that much then. Unfortunate freak accidents. Not something that seemed to threaten my timeline at all. Still, the thought of being able to bottle time for later… now that caught my attention.
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you
Although I didn’t appreciate its value at 18, it didn’t take long for me to become obsessed with saving remnants of time. It started with the birth of our children. I saved everything they ever made and wore, read and played with. I videoed their every move: VHS, VHS-C, 8 mm, DVD-R, digital….we have them all. Sometimes I feel like I saw their childhoods through the lens of a video camera instead of in real time. Knowing they would grow up, I told myself I’d still have these things to remind me, so I could relive the precious years. I couldn’t bear to think that anything better was to come. These are the good old days, I thought. I internalized Brad Paisley’s lyric, The memory of a day like today can get you through the rest of your life. I have an attic full of memories to survive whatever years I have left.
When I was being flown to the Cleveland Clinic after I was first diagnosed, I lost consciousness just before the plane was about to take off. Paramedics were called, boarded the plane, and started to treat me. Suddenly, it seemed as though our Promised Land of medical expertise would be just out of reach. Doctors didn’t know if I could survive the flight. I remember at that moment, through the fog in my mind, looking over at my high school sweetheart as he pleaded, “Stay with me, stay with me.” I instantly knew we were both thinking the same thing: This is not the ending we thought it would be. And certainly not how long we thought the story would last. It hit me that all my preserved time did me no good at that moment.
I can now see that my fixation on preserving time was just a symptom of a lack of trust. God has this time thing under control. And (surprise!) He needs no help from me. After all, eternity’s work was accomplished over the course of three days. When we make the decision to become part of that everlasting with God, everything changes. We don’t need to store time in our attics or in our minds. It is all ours and God wants us to live it to His glory, not obsess over preserving it this side of Heaven.
Even better, God holds all of that eternity in His own hands. Like a timeline of all of history playing out live, from beginning to never-ending. He sees it all at once. To Him, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. Time was God’s idea and design, but our great God is not bound by time. So He literally has all the time in the world for each one of us. And His loving concern for us never ends and never seems too much for Him to handle. That relationship is forever. Even a sappy graduation speech couldn’t begin to explain that.