Sponge

When I was young, time was like water from a garden hose.

Flowing freely, limitless supply.

I could afford to run it all day long.

Play in it, wash with it, drink from it, water the flowers.

I had all the time I needed…

That was then.

Now, time is like water contained in a bucket.

It’s limited, and the portions I choose to drink from, play in, wash in, and water with represent a much larger percentage of the total I have left.

My children are like two sponges dipped in my water bucket.

They soak up time.

The older they get, the smaller the sponge gets, and the less time they soak up.

These sponges are in my hands, for now. The water contained in them all the time I have left with my children.

And I’m going to squeeze out every drop of joy and laughter and truth and goodness I can.

Until the water, the time, is all gone.

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Where I am

Let’s face it, in life there are certain people we just like being around more than others. Our hearts are connected, by DNA or some other strong bond, and life is better, fuller, funnier, more fulfilling when we are with these people.

The more time we spend with them, the better life becomes.

Sometimes we’re forced to go long stretches away from those we love the most. Sometimes, they’re gone for good. All of the time we’ve spent investing in the relationship, all of the positive results of the investment become either temporarily or permanently unavailable.

One of the great tragedies of this life is that we almost always eventually end up living apart from those we love the most.

In the gospel, we see this reality closing in on Jesus and his disciples.

In John 13, the scriptures say, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

Jesus understood the ramifications of what was about to happen to Him on the lives of those who were closest to Him. The ones who loved Him most. His understanding led him, in chapter 14, to make this tender and beautiful promise to his friends: ”And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Jesus gets it. He knows the power of being close, the importance of sharing the same space, the beauty of physical togetherness. What Jesus knew and understood took me a long time to figure out. I’ve lived long enough to finally learn life is richest and best when we spend our fleeting moments on this side of eternity with those we cherish and care about the most.

I think somewhere in my subconscious, I’ve known this all along. There have been opportunities to “advance my career” in other states over the years, and we walked away from those opportunities every time, mainly because of this truth:

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If we have time..

A few months ago, I was driving back home from visiting the place where I grew up. Around dinner time, I stopped in at a spot my family and I vacationed at for many years when I was a child. The whole weekend had been one long nostalgia trip, so I decided to complete the effect by visiting an area where so many happy memories were made when I was younger. The place is called Fort Wilderness. It’s a resort and campground located across the lake from the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World. And as I walked around, every sight and smell and sound was beckoning me back to those blissful days of my youth with my grandparents, parents, brother, and sisters.

As I was walking along, I was thinking about how much I missed those days with my family. And then I started to think about my own family. My wife and my children. I wished they were there with me, that we were on vacation together in this magical place, taking in all of the sights and sounds and smells together.

It was in the middle of this ethereal mix of reminiscing and longing that I overheard a conversation by a father and his toddler son who had just gotten off the boat. It went like this…

Toddler: “Can we go on the wittle park?”

Dad: “Umm, if we have time.”

If you have time? My blood grew warmer. Here I was willing to give anything to have my children next to me in this moment and this guy seemed as if he was taking his son’s presence for granted. I wanted to grab that father. I wanted to put my hands on his upper arms and shake some sense into him. I wanted to get up in his face and plead, “This is the only time! Don’t you see? This is the only time you have! Don’t you know what you’ve got here? These days where children are completely dependent upon you and adore you and think you can do no wrong? These times when all a child wants to do is spend time with you? Don’t you get it? This is the only time you have! Soon they’ll grow up and the last thing they’ll want is to play on a playground with you, “wittle” or otherwise. This is the only time.”

But it wasn’t really that father I wanted to grab and shake and demand that he pay more attention to his children and live in the moment with them while they are small. It was another father. One who looks like me, only about seven years younger. One who said “if we have time” so many times, never realizing the incongruity of the phrase.

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