Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sands of Time

No matter how big the hour glass, no matter how much sand rests in the top half when the glass is turned, the force of gravity is irresistible; the flight of a million grains of sand, inexorable. Time has been on my mind virtually all throughout the past 12 days as I've visited my Washington home and caught up with family and friends.

It started with a bunch of seemingly loose and disconnected threads: listening to my brother talk about his work in a Denver public school; my sister talking about her first semester of college; watching the Christmas eve program at church; visiting Lynden Christian for the first time in nearly four years; playing through a video game based around time travel; saying goodbye to my 9-year old dog...

These and so many other seemingly random occurrences finally fused together in my mind yesterday as my family settled down to watch two hours worth of old home videos. The images of days gone by paraded past on the screen; people so familiar, yet so vastly different from us who now sat and watched. Because the camcorder tapes had been unmarked when my mom had brought them in to be transferred, the DVD footage we now watched was random in sequence; jumping from 1994 to 1996 to 1993 to 2000, back to 1993. Perhaps it would have been less jarring to watch everything chronologically; something about the jumps, watching 10 year old Nate turn into 7 year old Nate or 7 year old Lea turn into baby Lea turn into 1 year old Lea... it made me feel like another dot on the time-line.

Though we were spectators of our past selves in that moment, that moment soon faded into memory. As I now pack my suitcase and prepare to head back to Japan, I look at the photos from the past two weeks (and the corny video of Ben and I singing "Wassail") not as the present but nostalgically, as fond memories. Like sand in an hour glass, each second is another speck fallen; lost, save for recorded images and memories.

I watched with some degree of envy as the younger version of myself put on a puppet show in the living room--my greatest concern being whether or not my head could be seen from my hiding place behind the coffee table. I smiled at the sound of the voices of grandparents who have since passed away, voices that I hadn't heard in 3, 10, even 16 years. I wondered to myself if my own future children would watch these or other videos someday and smile at the sound of my parents' voices even long after they are gone. The thought was at once comforting and sobering.

Strange as it was for me to watch these old videos, it was even stranger for my parents, to whom the past 25 years have seemed like the blink of an eye. Though I can identify now (college and each year since seems to have sped by), time seemed to drag when I was a child. I was shocked to find, in watching these old videos, that I'd only had to wear a cast on my broken wrist for two weeks when I was in 2nd grade. Somehow, in my memory, I had worn that cast for two months.

It was odd to hear my parents speaking to these younger versions of my siblings and myself as children and not intellectually capable adults. I'd grown so accustomed to our often deep and profound discussions around the dinner-table that I had forgotten it had ever been another way.

I lay awake in bed for quite a while that night, after watching those videos. I felt so many different emotions as I slowly drifted off to sleep: nostalgia and a desire to relive my childhood, shock at the passage of time, regret at the time that I had wasted, fear at the prospect that time would not slow down for anyone let alone me.

My take-away, or at least what I remembered when I woke up, was to let my family know that I cared for them; to love them and be loved while the opportunity was still in front of me. How must my mom have felt as she watched her parents, now both deceased, alive and well on tape? How must it have felt for my dad to see his dad sitting at the table for my 8th birthday party now 10 years since his passing?

My mom expressed it well when she later said that she'd like to leave more than static pictures--instead leaving behind a legacy through her writings. Her conviction renewed my conviction to write regularly.

Time is elusive and we'll never be able to seize it or ensnare it. However, time is also precious and so we should never stop trying to seize each moment and live it to the fullest, to live it for God's glory. I'm not entirely sure when I went from being an energetic child with a pudding bowl haircut and a love-hate relationship with the letter 'r' to who I am today, but regardless of the changes and inconsistencies, I need to remember the One who is a constant. God is unchangeable even as the world around us adapts and morphs. What's more, I am called to reflect the character of God and to love those around me. In watching the clips, I realized how fortunate I was to have another constant in the form of parents who loved me then and love me now.

Time fades away, scatters like sand, but love endures. God endures.

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