New Year’s Day and the Passage of Time

I stood at the bay window in our living room contemplating recent events. Things were different now. We had packed up our belongings and shipped them away. We had said goodbye to friends and family. We had journeyed thousands of miles from familiar surroundings and were poised to begin anew. “I’ve lived a full life,” I thought to myself. “I wonder when I’ll die.” In consideration of all that subsequently transpired, my estimation of life’s fullness was a bit short of the mark. But I didn’t know much better at the time. I was only five years old.

I’m a California kid, born in Santa Cruz. My mother’s people had been native Californians from the time the Spaniards rode in on horseback. My father’s roots in the state weren’t as deep. He was born there, but his father came from Norway. And in 1970, mom and dad decided it was time to get out. Only four of us seven children were left at home by then: the baby (that’s me), my brothers Timothy and Eric, and my only sister Barbara. As I recall it (they, no doubt, have different memories), we helped pack, paint, and clean the house. Dad and the older kids headed out in the pickup truck. Mom and I got to fly. We all arrived safe and sound in the exotic land of the Ozarks in the northwest corner of Arkansas. And so it was that after such a grand adventure, I found myself contemplating my full life and mortality.

No doubt, if you are like me, time has sped up for you since the days when you were a carefree preschooler. It’s the first day of 2014. I remember calculating as a child how old I would be in 2000, which was the year when science fiction (or at least a good portion of it) was supposed to change into science fact. I recall 2000 being a long way off, shimmering with magical millennial change. Now I wonder where it went. Wasn’t 2000 Tuesday? No, that was yesterday. Yep, just about.

New Year’s Day must have been invented by an old man.[1] How else are we to keep track of a universal physical property considered to be constantly screaming by us at the speed of light? My baby is nearly eleven years old and just last week I was burping him on my shoulder. How did that happen? Oh, yeah, New Year’s Day. We had a decade of them in the past week.

Life is moving so fast, I fear that I may not be filling it with lasting things. As I’ve grown older, it’s become more about the destination and less about the journey. And I’m not even sure of where we’re going. Where I used to gaze out the window in wide wonder, now I focus on the clock and the speedometer. And the drive that was a delight has turned dangerously into a chore with limited choices. Time to pull over!

Busyness is tiresome. Fullness is satisfying. I wasn’t depressed as a five-year-old contemplating my mortality. I was overwhelmed by the fullness of our adventure, the sheer greatness of our life. I couldn’t have verbalized it then, but in essence, I was grateful for the journey. Remembrance and gratefulness turned the ordinary, a family move, into extraordinary. I know of no better way of slowing down as we march forward.

January 1st is our culture’s touchstone of time. We celebrate it in hope of better things to come and relief of bad things fading away. We make resolutions about what we will accomplish in the New Year and make a short review of the memorable events of the year past. And then we typically live on as we have; same speed, same direction.

In establishing Israel’s sacred calendar, God made Abib the first month.[2] In this month, the Lord provided the Passover, slew the firstborn of Egypt, and led Jacob’s children out in the Exodus. Now there’s transition for you! Think of it for a moment. God instructed Israel to begin their year with the eradication of their enemies, the redemption from their sins, and their deliverance from bondage. Imagine if we viewed this milestone in time in the same way. What if we celebrated God’s victory over our enemy? What if we recalled all we had been forgiven for? What if we walked forward, free from the chains of the past? I dare say the ordinary would become extraordinary.

[1] OK, ladies, put down the pitchforks. Certainly, the celebratory day could have been invented by a woman as well as a man. I just happen to think that the image of an old man has more comical value in this context.

[2] Exodus 12:2, the month is also known as Nisan.


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