I had a solo 6-hour drive to Chicago last week, and the time just dragged. As a matter of fact, the time always drags when I leave this place. As a child, my grandparents would pick us up after school, a tin full of ground ham and peanut sandwiches (ick) on the back seat, and the nose of their old Buick turned toward the bluff in northern Michigan. Time sped up in glowing excitement-my mind bursting with out-of-the-city-and-into-the-forest-and-dunes anticipation of the carefree summer at hand. The opposite occurred around Labor Day weekend. We’d buried our newest treasures, released our “pet” salamanders, and hiked our last dune until next year. Time back to Chicago on that same well-worn road crawled, the summer gone so quickly, a heart full of memories, shoes full of sand.
I am slowly reading my friend and former colleague James K.A. Smith’s newest book, “How to Inhabit Time.” jameskasmith.com It’s not a slow read because it is difficult. No, this is like a deep, purply glass of royal wine; it is to be savored. Part of the reason is that I am just coming off a time of deep change and challenge. Of loss. Of leaving. Of the critical illness of our only child who lives far away. All things filled with longing, lament, grief and fear. Of feeling as if God had retreated to the margins and adopted a hands-off stance. My prayers were whispered. Then shouted. Then stilled altogether. The temporality of life invaded the heart, and the future became the present, which became my history with blinding speed. Yet, it felt as if time had stopped. Even the ticking of my grandmother’s clock was irksome.
It has been a 3-year tempest with numbing spiritual paralysis. In writing about light and darkness in the Arctic, Jamie Smith asks, “What if all the sunlight in your life comes late, at an oblique angle? What if the sun cyclically disappears from a life for nights that seem like they’ll never end?”
Some years are longer than others” he writes.James K.A. Smith. How to Inhabit Time. Brazos Press. 2022. Quotes from Chapter 2.
Amen to that my brother. For the last 3 years I have stayed almost manically busy. Traveled. Cooked. worked the garden and the food pantry, watched more than a few Hallmark movies. But now, it is time to begin the great, long-awaited reconnection because we are finally settled. The pain of the uprooting is subsiding. The flow of words has reversed course, ready to run like a river. Our daughter’s health is stabilizing. We will soon be joining a new church. Things like a pot of homemade chicken soup and a fresh loaf of bread are no longer tasteless sustenance; instead they waft glorious whiffs of goodness and rightness throughout the house. We are sleeping well in our own bed; Jamie Smith reminds us to treasure the truth that “there is rest in the dark.”
Rested and ready. There was evening and mourning. Then morning. A day. A year. Three years. Only the grace of God gives us the strength and endurance for dark times. And those times are critical to our growth in perseverance and character and hope (Romans 5), creating our own unique history to inevitably shape all our tomorrows.
If you are in a dark time, hang on. The wilderness eventually gives way to glorious and flourishing life because
God is preparing you for something wonderful!”
He and time are on your side.
Thanks for reading!
J.A.P. Walton, Ph.D.
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