My youngest turns four years old next week, and it hurts to even write that. Last month, my six-year old lost a tooth – one of the big ones right in front. She cried and I cried and we held each other for an hour, not because the tooth drawing was so painful, but because growing up is, and she knows it already. Yesterday, my seven-year old bemoaned the fact that he is getting so old, and won’t be able to remember everything that’s happened to him anymore.
So I kiss my children goodnight, and everytime I do I feel like I’m saying goodbye. Goodbye to this day, goodbye to this moment, goodbye to this child. Tomorrow they will each have changed and I will never know them again as they are right now, in this moment. I leave their rooms mourning the loss.
Last fall was the first hunting season in 73 years that Pop did not shoot at least one deer and every time I opened the freezer it was with a twinge of sorrow for all the packages of venison that weren’t there. My husband teased Pop about it, but it was only a thin veil masking the pain that’s churning just beneath the surface. We have buried four grandparents in the past five years and we are in the process of moving the remaining two closer to our parents so they can care for them. Days are hurtling by like the downhill of a roller coaster and I…I have wrinkles.
We live with a constant sense of loss as everything around us is passing, changing and dying. You can see it in the trees this time of year: the blush of spring is gone, the vigor of summer is past and the beauty of autumn is daily giving way to the ugliness of winter. Nothing lasts and every atom of our bodies, every flutter of our souls rebels against it. Death should not be! God has placed eternity in our hearts. We know this, we feel this, but it’s a tormenting knowledge, because death has put eternity beyond our reach. Perhaps this is the greatest loss of all, the loss of the eternal. We are banished and the way back is blocked by a flaming sword. Desperately we search for life, grasping after anything that seems to slow time down, or at least something that will distract us from the pain of its passing, but moments slip away even while we try to hold them, like water running through our fingers.
Now is when I need someone to take me by the hand, to lead me, to tell me the Story again so that Truth can bring light to my darkened eyes. And it doesn’t always have to be The Story, because all stories offer me glimpses of Truth, even if by its absence. One of my favorite things about stories at times like this is the taste of changelessness they offer hungry soul. I can pick up a book today and read a story that I heard 25 years ago as a child, and it’s the same story. It’s the same old friends in the old familiar places and no one’s lost a tooth in the meantime. Bilbo still forgets his handkerchief as he hurries out his door and Tumnus still clutches his parcels and umbrella. The same villains come and the same heroes defeat them, and tomorrow I can pick the story back up, read it again, and it’s still the same. Time has passed, but nothing’s been lost.
My heart resonates with that immutability and it gives me courage to raise my melancholy eyes to Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. So I listen to excellent music or I read an excellent story, because Jesus is visible in everything done with excellence. And that’s what I need right now, to see Jesus. He is where true timelessness is found. And though I cannot comprehend why, he invites me to experience that eternal changelessness for myself. He offers me abundant, eternal life, and someday soon he will put death to death.
In the meantime though, the transitions of life still fly by, like mile markers on the side of the road. You drive past late at night, going 70, and your headlights reflect back numbers so fast your mind can hardly process what you saw. Yet… you know, you know that each one is telling you you’re getting a little closer to home. As for the wrinkles…well…
May they always come from smiles, never scowls.
May they dance around your eyes, and not your jowls!