Living in the Present Tense
by Andrew Tuttle
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The other evening I went for my usual walk and as I sometimes do I brought my Ipod with me. It had been a while since I listened to Social Distortionís untitled album from 1990. In many respects it defined a lot of my high school years for me.
Itís been 20 years but I was amazed at how the different songs brought me back in time. As each song played I had memories, feelings and even sensations that were very much alive back then and that could now only be felt as each song ended giving way to the next.
I never made high school the end all be all of human existence as many teenagers do. Nor do I have a longing to return to high school. However, the longing I do have is one of time.
Time in some ways haunts me. I have never felt comfortable in time. I know that whatever excitement I may be experiencing will end. I also know that whatever pain I am experiencing will endÖbut never soon enough. I want time to stop; other times I want to fast forward through time. The Bible says there is an appointed time for everything and there is a time for every event under heaven.
Have you ever been stuck in a moment and tried to hold on? Actually grasped the present tense only to see what was at one time your present experience to be a day old, a week old, a month old then a year. Recently, Iíve lost some beloved pets of mine. All three were living on borrowed breath (arenít we all) and I would sit and stare knowing in a month, even a week they would be gone. I can remember how present it was the last night with my dog. I was there seeing her alive knowing in a few short hours Iíd have to let go. That present is gone. What was present is now past.
At times, I have found myself envying my high school aged son and even continue to do so now that he is immersed in college. I certainly remember those times. In fact, I used to cover high school sports for a newspaper a mere 10 years after graduating high school and I remember looking at all the teenagers enjoying their high school moments. I looked at their youth and wondered where did mine go?
The reality is high school did seem like a blur. And it will seem like a blur to them too. The good times came and went and I only wish the good times would last a little longer. How often do we find ourselves wishing for time to stand still? Weíd like to freeze the moment a little bit longer and make each sensation and impression a little bit stronger. All of our experiences seem to slip awayÖin time.
Though itís hard to grasp that God has made everything appropriate in its time, my reality is itís not necessarily teenage youth or a longing back to simpler times I yearn for. What I didnít understand then nor do todayís kids or tomorrowís, is time. Thatís when the envying disappears. My mind had not adapted to time. Nor has theirs. Remember when Christmas break felt like a month? Now, itís just a pay period. Perhaps then I long for the time when my mind was not adapted to time.
Author Sheldon Vanauken suggests we are not adapted to time and we are not at home in time. We are always amazed at how fast it goes, how slow it goes, how much of it is gone. ďIf that is so, he says, ďit may appear as a proof, or at least a powerful suggestion, that eternity exists and is our home.Ē
What I found most interesting as I listened to that 20-year-old album was how happy it made me. If Mike Ness is able to tap into a little bit of heaven here on earth, imagine what his music will be like without the constraints of time, in heaven. (Please see ďUntitledĒ off of White Light White Heat White Trash.) It occurred to me as the album rolled on that one of the bandís most famous songs ďBall and ChainĒ was about life. As it came on I listened to the lyrics again for the first time. I canít imagine what else that song is about.
Iíve listened to that song hundreds of times. But for the first time, I felt so moved by it I have to admit I got a little emotional. The Ball and Chain of Life. Or perhaps itís the Ball and Chain of Time. In many respects time is our ball and chain. We are held captive by it. We watch our children grow up and old friends grow older. Iíll think about the good times Iíve had and why they had to end. Then, Iíll grow impatient when time trickles by and I just want to get out of this place.
Life indeed goes by too fast. Thereís no time to pause; if we could only slow it all down. Close your eyes and itís past. Itís the story of our lives.
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