“One more minute,” I say with clear and careful execution, enunciating each word behind the solitary salute of my pointer finger. The sunlight streaming in through the kitchen window paints her chubby toddler cheeks in striking golden hues. I can see white clouds reflected in her sky-coloured eyes. They look bigger than usual; enlarged to absorb the lesson of the moment. Patience: it’s the strictest teacher in the school of Waiting.
It’s yet another one of those days where I feel like Time barged in, unannounced. Uninvited. Unrestrained. Taking, taking, taking all the time. It’s water trickling through my can’t-contain-it-no-matter-how-hard-I-try fingers. The neon green numbers flash like a sea of picket signs being jabbed and thrust to a fast-paced chant. It sharply interrupts my interminable, hopeful daydreaming. I’m reminded that time is both fleeting and incessant. Invasive and demanding.
My daughter waits with me, watching the numbers count down, waiting for her snack. She winces and throws her head back: “Ma-”. The first syllable is clipped, engulfed by exasperation. She whimpers then sharply inhales. The last syllable is drawn out, “-maaaa!” The contrast reminds me that time is both hurried and elongated. The irony is not lost on me; an appliance designed for the instantaneous, taking far too long. How do I introduce a two-year-old to Time?
How do I introduce a two-year-old to Time?
I could tell her that Time is an elusive thief, like the hooded figure who gains entry to the unlocked abode under the cover of darkness. That he rummages through the possessions of our souls, pocketing the trinkets and treasures housed within. That even the most precious memories and prized emotions of a well-lived life will one day be taken by Time. That there is no retrieving that which he steals from us; our loss is Time’s gain.
“It’s coming soon,” I say in an effort to smooth out the wrinkles of frustration and impatience forming on her forehead. The rotating plate is spinning the object of her desire in a continuous cycle of nearer and farther, nearer and farther, nearer and farther. In drawn out days like these, it feels like the object of my greatest desire–the celestial city where I will be welcomed by my risen King–is also on the rotating plate, pirouetting in and out of reach. A continuous cycle of Nearer and Farther. Nearer: Birthing flesh of my flesh, the gift of unconditional love, the Gospel lived out daily. Farther: Postpartum health issues, loneliness while never being alone, the guilty longing for a life once lived. Or are these also things that draw me Nearer? That quicken Time’s pace and spin Eternity into clearer view? It’s clear she doesn’t yet understand Time. But now I’m not sure I do either.
I contemplate how to help us both make sense of this friendly foe. I consider telling her that some days, Time is obnoxiously obvious; dressed in sparkly foil balloons and the dancing flames of candles on a cake. That some days, it’s vibrant red crosses methodically slashed across the calendar, or the obtrusive buzzing that breaks through the silence of the morning. Or, if Time allows, shall I tell her that some days, it’s quieter? Unassuming. Cloaked in the monotony of predictable schedules and repeated routines.
“It’s coming soon,” I repeat in an effort to smooth out the wrinkles of frustration and impatience forming on my own forehead.
I sweep her up in my loving embrace and my arms fold around her tiny torso. I am reminded of yet another simple truth: that which God places in my hands, He asks me to hold lightly. And yet here I am, trying to tighten my grip and reposition my fingers and do all I can to make sure that which He has given me isn’t going to slip out of my grasp. Not on my watch. But that’s just the thing–this is not my watch. It’s His.
How do I live faithfully between the Now and the Not Yet? How do I most beautifully decorate the present space between Time Past and Eternity Future? Each passing second with my daughter in that kitchen, reminds me that there is coming a Day when Time will be taken away. That at the crescendo of creation, Time as we know it, will take a bow as Eternity dances her way onto the stage. And yet, these short days have meaning beyond the reach of Time.
“I’m proud of the way you are waiting” I whisper softly, as much to my own heart as to my daughter. Then I offer my waiting to the One who exists outside of Time. The One for whom Time is just a wristwatch, soon to be taken off and laid on a cosmic dresser. I decide that, one day, that’s what I’ll tell her about Time: how to receive it as a gift from the Author of it, and how to offer it all back to Him, the only One not restrained by it. For He alone exists not only within Time, but eternally before it, ever ahead of it, and sovereignly above it. Remembering that, is my pathway to living faithfully between the here-and-now and the one-day-when.
“Beeeep”. Time’s final siren. Registering the meaning of the moment, joy colours every corner of her precious face. Registering the greater meaning of these past few moments, joy colours every corner of my face, too.