As I write this, the sun is coming up, again. It doesn’t look the same as yesterday; today is grayer, however, the light still comes.
I’ve been considering the time that has passed. The 25 days I spent with my family recently wasn’t necessarily or primarily chronological time. Particularly the time with my children, spent in incredible challenge and joy, was beyond time – a depth of time that distorts the mere passing of days.
I don’t really know how to explain it; I have lived this wonder before. The weeks I spent with both my Mom and my Dad when they were dying was an extravagant gift. The days went by with little recognition of the actual date or day of the week or time of day. Events of each day were both quotidian and sacred: waking up, making meals, physically caring for the most basic needs of another. Nothing that happened would qualify as noteworthy to a casual observer, yet, each moment held an abundance of extravagantly giving of ourselves that is evidence of how precious our lives are together. That same sense of Presence, a holy presence of each other and of an Eternal Presence, permeated the time I most recently spent with family in pain, uncertainty, and uncompromising joy in love.
The Eternal Presence expands the idea of time as past, present, and future conflated in each moment. God invites us to open our hearts to what spiritual writer Thomas Kelly calls “eternal now”—God’s eternal plan in each moment. Kelly writes,
But I am persuaded… there is a serious retention of both time and timeless, with the final value and significance located in the Eternal, who is the creative root of time itself. …The possibility of this experience of Divine Presence, [is] a repeatedly realized and present fact, and its transforming and transfiguring effect upon all life… Once discover this glorious secret, this new dimension of life, and we no longer live merely in time but we live also in the Eternal. The world of time is no longer the sole reality of which we are aware. A second Reality hovers, quickens, quivers, stirs, energizes us, breaks in upon us and in love embraces us, together with all things… We live our lives at two levels simultaneously, the level of time and the level of the Timeless. They form one sequence, with a fluctuating border between them. Sometimes the glorious Eternal is in the ascendance, but still, we are aware of our daily temporal routine. Sometimes the clouds settle low and we are chiefly in the world of time, yet we are haunted by a smaller sense of Presence, in the margin of consciousness.
So this reimagined time is how we live, not thinking so much of this one moment yet being fully present in only this moment.
After he came home from a three-day evaluation at Betty Ford Center, my son said he wished things could go back to normal—but there is never the same normal again, as we build relationships and experience in this eternal now. And I have also longed for some kind of settledness or sense of normal and realize that being present- in whatever is – is my life.
Do you remember the movie, Groundhog Day? The main character, Phil, lived the same day over and over. He came to know in his body and spirit what would happen. The result was that he was able to change how he responded to people in each moment he’d lived before. He remembered an old classmate’s name, he actually listened to an elderly lady at breakfast, and he stopped to play with neighborhood children in the snow. In doing so, Phil changed how he was in relationship with the people whom he reluctantly encountered for what he thought was one inconsequential day.
We can’t know like Phil did who would step off the curb into icy water or who would need his affirmation or how his work colleague’s hopes and dreams could be sensed, but I can be more present, recognize possibility, affirm and confront appropriately – not reactively but lovingly. I can be in time with others, with the beauty of the sunrise and even be in the pain in ways that are beyond time.
I spent probably 6-7 hours making meals and freezing them for my pregnant daughter and her husband. I was totally immersed and invested in the creativity, the care, and the craft of making those meals that would provide good quality food and ease in the coming days. It was an act of love and while I was exhausted, especially after cleaning up all the mess, it was a good use of time, that extended time, and was and gave a gift of time.
I also spent too much time yesterday invested in trying to rescue, protect, and manage the lives of the people I love.
Today the sun came up and it is bright, bringing light and warmth to this new day. I have a new opportunity to choose how to be in it—to live my life at two levels simultaneously, the level of time and the level of the Timeless.