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Heartbeat of Time

Heartbeat of Time

The view you will get right now from any window here in Maine reports imminent change; the leaves display a variety of colors from God’s palette, and the air outside is crisp and increasingly complimented by the smell of wood-burning fireplaces. Sleeved shirts wrap summer’s bare-skinned arms, and shoes now cover feet that recently ran unfettered across green lawns. With autumn here and winter quickly approaching, I am reminded that each day is a catalyst of time and that we are all subject to its progression. I’m also drawn to reflect upon how that time is spent–the seconds and minutes that, when summed up, create the years of our existence. If the Lord sees fit, we will wake up in the sunlight of another tomorrow, which could be a Monday or a Friday or a Sunday, but that will always be whatever day is next in line. Enough of these days gone by, we find ourselves having lived through yet another season.

What do we do with this time, you and me? We work, that’s for sure. We go to the grocery store. We watch the news, read the paper, take out the garbage and pay more than we should to put gas in our cars. We cheer for the home team, mow the grass, walk our dogs, and pay more than we should for a coffee down the street. We cook dinner, go to church, brush our teeth, and bed down for the night. We meet a neighbor at the end of the drive and small talk for a bit before we move on to the next thing. We drop a coin in a tip bucket for a street side musician and keep moving on. We kiss our loved-ones goodbye for the day or bump fists with our friends, and with the warmness of their faces still on our minds and our brown-bagged lunches in hand, we walk away to the next thing or person or place that requires our presence. We do these thing, and life goes on. Do we ever stop to listen to our lives, to hear the time as it is being passed, to listen to our footsteps as they coincide with the ticking and tocking of any clock that has a beat?

We often see our lives as a routine of organized dullness, and are sure that the going and coming commonness of them is so out-of-the-spotlight that there could be nothing very much Holy about them; just something upon which time has an effect. It is at this point that I think we have been dulled by a slow-moving, ever-inching lie of the world that tells us there is no grace and no hope, and that our lives are only lines of activity that abruptly end one day. But it is exactly grace that our lives are full of, and because of it that we have life to begin with. Author Frederick Buechner puts it this way in his memoir, Now and Then: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

What might we hear if we do listen to our lives? What would meet our ears if we put them to the rails of our existence? I think we would at least hear the distinct sound of being human; being lost and in constant need of a savior to lead us, relieve us, and offer us an eternal out. We would hear fear, insecurity, fragmentedness and a craving for intimacy, but also joy, laughter and the satisfaction of friendship. The human condition is no doubt what we would hear, which, in a way, is itself a holy thing. God himself–the Holy One–created us, and what created thing does not reflect a little of its creator? I think God knew that if we listened long enough to our lives we would hear the dysfunction of human fallen-ness. He knew that it would be more than we can handle, which is why he provided Christ as the Messiah, who himself heard the same human condition when he listened to the woman at the well, to Zacchaeus in the tree, to Nicodemus in the dark of that ancient evening, and to the thief on the cross. To each of those people he offered himself as a response to what they heard of themselves, just as he is the response to what we hear of ourselves today.

We are no doubt subject to time’s progression–we cannot escape it. But time is subject to God. What if we were to interpret time more as a reminder of God’s constant presence as He was, is, and always will be on earth and in us rather than so much as a deadly countdown to the end? What if we could accept the ticking of time as Christ’s own heartbeat pumping through the blues and grays of our days, the high-rises and lattes of our lives? If ever we could stop long enough to let our minds stand still, away from the humming beehive of our mass culture, then we might be able to hear how our own heartbeats tell of a Holiness that was, that is, and is to come–that is the response to who we are and how we are.

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