Time is a funny thing; it speeds up when you want it to slow down, and it drags its feet when you desperately want to move onto something new and different. This past weekend, some dear friends of mine graduated from seminary, and I recall the feelings I had this time last year, of bittersweet change on the horizon. I was simultaneously wishing for more time with my beloved community while also being fully ready to close out that particular season of life.
When such circumstances arise in our lives, of natural endings and of new beginnings, we often mark our time with moments that, for whatever reason, feel and seem more vivid in our memory. The last time I would have to drive into Boston for class. The last time I’d sing with the seminary singers during chapel services. The first full week of work post-graduation. The first time I re-entered the school to visit as an alumna, not as a student. What is it about the circumstances that causes us to mark time as though we were setting up monuments?
I once remember someone explaining time like the ocean: the future is far out in the water, its end blending into the sky in infinite waves. The shoreline, with its glittering sand and crushed shells, is the past with which we can interact and turn over in our minds. But the waterline, the actual ebb and flow of each individual wave, is the present; we cannot predict where it will go, and it often brings moments of the past into the future. The present is a thin line, a sliver of time that can’t be tracked or measured. When such moments are viewed in this temporary way, how are we to live fully in the present?
With big milestones and celebrations, one of the most common ways we spend time with other people is through going out to dinner. We make reservations, make travel plans, and maybe even dress up. Once we get to the restaurant, we’ll meet up with others, hugs and handshakes will abound, and we’ll settle in for an amazing night of great food and even better conversation. Before we know it, the room has emptied around us, the wait staff is sweeping, and we’ve closed out the place.
Memories around food, and particularly the relationships that have been fostered over meals, can be some of the most vibrant monuments we’ve set up, set up to remember, to celebrate, to love. This is what it means to live in the moment: to fall in love with our surroundings so deeply that we lose track of time while simultaneously being absolutely present.
Time is a funny thing; it speeds up when you want it to slow down, and it drags its feet when you desperately want to move onto something new and different. But may we always live at the waterline, watching each wave as it brings new life with every passing moment.