Yesterday afternoon, I was entering a local supermarket just as a family with two young boys were leaving for their car. At first I was quite taken back because the one child was a "spitting image" of my own eldest son back when he was a boy that age. So I did a "double take" as that family passed me by, and obviously the little boy saw me looking at him because he smiled and gave me a little wave.
That smile and that little wave really got to me because my eldest son is now married and today he turns 33.
When I saw that little boy passing me by at the supermarket doors, my mind was instantly flooded with memory and emotion. My son's life sort of flashed before me - the day he was born, school, college graduation, the day he was married.
But more than anything else, I thought to myself, "How is it possible that time could have passed by so quickly?" It seemed like only yesterday that our son was that little boy at a supermarket with his parents. Today he is 33 years old.
This morning I am reflecting on "time" - the passage of time, the use of time.
In a very real sense, "time" is quite relative in terms of how slow or how fast it seems to pass. I can sit in the waiting room of a doctor's office and 15 minutes feels like an eternity. I can sit in a theater enjoying a great movie and two hours passes in an instant.
I have also discovered that now, in my later years of life, I experience the passage of time in radically different ways than when I was younger.
As a boy I remember sitting in a classroom and thinking the hours of the day would never end. Then there was college, grad school, ordination, marriage, and career - It felt like we had all the time in the world to raise our family, get established, plan careers.
Then one day it was as if someone turned on some sort of cosmic switch, and all of a sudden "time" started to pass by at "breakneck speed." Out here in the desert my wife and I often find ourselves saying to one anther, "can you believe a week has already gone by?" "Where did the time go?"
So maybe that's one of the lessons of my later years- the older you get the more swiftly fly the years.
In my later years I have also come to another significant learning about "time." There is no such thing as having "all the time in the world? When I was younger, I lived with a feeling that I had plenty of time (maybe even an unlimited amount of time) to live my life. I now know, deep in my heart, that this swiftly passing time does indeed come to an end. We only have a limited amount of time and it runs out for all of us.
In my reflections this morning I have little use for "nostalgia" -fondly remembering what life was like back when that now 33-year old man was a little boy. And there is no place in my life for "regret" or feelings of "what might have been." I refuse to ask questions like, "Did I spend too much time on my career and not enough with my family?" -thoughts like that are useless. They are a waste of precious time.
Instead, as I reflect on "time" this morning, an old Latin phrase comes to mind:
Seize the Day!
Every moment of every passing day is a gift to be enjoyed, relished and cherished - without regret of the past, without focus on the future. I "seize the day" as I enjoy the people I love and who love me. I "seize the day" as I bask in the glory of this desert morning.
A little brightly colored yellow butterfly is flitting about in my garden. I watch as it perches on the bright red bougainvilleas. It is so beautiful that I want to scoop it up and hold it in my hands -maybe put it in a scrapbook, pinned down as a memory of this moment. But if I did that, I would destroy the beauty, so I just sit back and relish it.
I would like to sit here and watch it all day long. But it quickly flies away.