In case you missed it, it’s December already, and I’m already a few days late with this column. So don’t ask me what happened to the rest of 2017 because obviously I have no idea! We have less than a month left till the year is over and I’m a year older and a bit befuddled about how all this happened.
That’s a funny thing about the passage of time and how we view it. When we’re young, in our teens and early twenties especially, time seems to move slowly. You’ve got your life ahead of you, yet you are pushing to get things done now! At the point in your life when you most likely have the most time left, you are in a big hurry to change everything right now!
Yet, as you get older, and thus have less time left to you, what happens? Most people tend to slow down and to encourage others, especially those younger than them, to relax and enjoy life a bit. Things will work out, don’t be so stressed about it, they often say.
It reminds me of an old Cat Stevens song, Father & Son. Here’s part of the lyrics:
It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.
I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Why, think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow
But your dreams may not.
The song ends with the radical young man running off to who knows where to do who knows what (if indeed he ever got anything done at all).
This seems to be a fairly universal experience and I think it’s really an odd one. You’d think that you would feel more pressure to get things done as the time you have left in life shrinks, wouldn’t you? It should be us old folks who are beating our heads against the walls, not teenagers. Good grief, they have, on average, five, six or even seven decades to get things done. What’s their rush? Me, I’m down to maybe two, so I have a good excuse to feel harried, hurried and haunted by the clock.
In a sense I think I do. I think about the lack of time to do certain things at any rate. But I don’t get all frustrated or furious about it either. Part of me find this odd, but the rest of me has settled on an old line that I’ve used a lot through the years and find it to be true in so many situations:
The issue is not the issue.
That’s something I say a lot to people I counsel with, and it’s oh so true. But it’s also true here, because I think older people see something that their younger counterparts didn’t, and perhaps couldn’t. And that’s this: the truly meaningful things in life aren’t what we think they are. The most important things in life aren’t what they seem to be, and in the end if you don’t find and fulfill the really important stuff, all of your achievements won’t amount to a hill of beans.
There are lots of famous people who can testify to this. They did great things, achieved amazing goals, became world famous, and died miserable. Why? Because their lives and souls were empty. They had done a lot of things, but they hadn’t addressed the important issues in their hearts and souls. So, in the end, what they achieved only proved the ancient book of Ecclesiastes right when it says, “Meaningless, Meaningless, all is meaningless.”
He had learned the hard way that what really matters in life isn’t all the outward things that we are so quick to focus on. No, what matters are the intangibles, those squishy, squashy, thoughts and feelings that you can’t really quantify but which in the end are what life is all about.
So this year, as you approach the holidays with all their accordant hassles, just remember: take your time, enjoy your life now, for this time and this day will never, ever, come again.
So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and happy whatever other holidays you might celebrate this month. Make them memorable and you won’t be sorry.
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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.