Making Time Stand Still
"It goes so fast."
The first time I remember uttering that phrase was when I needed to move my firstborn child from newborn into 3 month sized clothing. Many of us find ourselves saying it as yet another birthday rolls around, or when vacation ends.
But at this time of year, those four words become an especially common refrain, spoken by parents at graduations of every level from preschool to college. They can still hear the echo of small voices asking to be pushed on a swing, still feel the warm stickiness of a small hand in theirs as they crossed a street. Now they feel a bit dazed as they behold their grown (or rapidly growing) children.
As we mark these milestones, we realize that stepping into the new means leaving behind the old. Something precious is past, and will not return. We find ourselves asking how it went by so quickly. With this intense awareness of the passage of time, it feels like life is slipping through our fingers.
How can we slow time down, hold on a little longer?
As I think about this, I wonder if it is really time that moves so fast, or if it is our brains that are on high speed. Our attention is directed so many places at once, that we miss the moments. It's like a brilliant sunset with breathtaking beauty that is only ours to behold for a few brief minutes. If we look away, we miss it.
I can't stop the passage of weeks or years. There is no way to make summertime, my children's childhoods, or my own energy and health last forever. Knowing that, what can I do to enjoy the abundant life God has given me today, so I don't feel regret when it becomes the past?
I don't have all the answers to that question. But as another school year ends and we slip into the magic of summer, I have some ideas. They are the strategies I'm trying out, in the effort to be present right where I am, and soak in all that is now.
Avoid divided attention. I want to practice being physically still sometimes, so I can take in the sights, sounds, smells. At the beach, the ball field, or the bonfire, we can take note of all the details our senses take in. Turning our face toward the warmth of the sun, focusing on the sound of voices young and old cheering on the home team, and savoring the gooey sweetness of the chocolate-marshmallow combination in our s'more allow us to tuck those things away in our hearts.
Capture the moment. I plan to take more pictures and make more journal entries. Reflecting on and writing about a memorable experience, or even a day that feels ordinary now but I'll feel nostalgic about five years from now, allows me to fully appreciate them. Photographs open the floodgates of our memories. Through them we can revisit special people and places when our hearts ache to go back.
Make contact. This may be smiling, making focused eye contact, talking, laughing, or hugging. The method doesn't matter. What does matter is connecting with those right in front of us. My goal is to live in 3D, not through a flat screen. I am going to be more intentional about putting away the phone and focusing on the ones right in the room with me.
Slow down (literally). I have mastered the power walk - not only for fitness, but whenever I move, all the time. Now I am ready to shift into a lower gear and choose to travel a little more slowly. It's a way to eliminate the sense of hurry, whether I am meeting a friend or getting from the parking lot to the grocery store. I can extend this practice to holding the hug a little longer, lingering over a driveway conversation with a neighbor, and even chewing rather than gulping my lunch. Slowing our bodies can cue our brains that there's no need to rush to the next thing.
Thank God. I was taught early in life that part of the experience of receiving a present was writing a thank you note. As I described for the giver my enjoyment of the gift, I experienced that enjoyment more deeply. We can speak our thanks to the Giver throughout our days, for the big and the small. As we praise him for provision of our daily needs, for beauty, for relationships, and even for what feels messy in life, I believe we see it all more vividly.
As desperately as we would like to, there is nothing we can do to hold back the passage of time. But we can increase our enjoyment and our thankfulness for each day and life season. It is the hard won habit of tuning our awareness to the unique grace in each day. Our joy grows and our God is glorified as we savor what we have right now. Then it becomes a little easier to let go of the past and face the future with confidence, anticipating what lies ahead. The good God who gave us today goes ahead of us for the tomorrows.