Losing Time

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A reflection from the past hurricane season

By the time hurricane Dennis roared north across the Florida panhandle, fanned out over the southern states and blew into Atlanta, much of its destructive power had dissipated. We spent the night without electricity and endured several hours of fierce winds and torrential rain, but by mid-morning of the next day the summer calm had returned and it was time to clean up the tree limbs that were strewn across our yard. What made the task almost pleasurable for me was the shiny red chipper I had recently bought that would pulverize a three inch limb in seconds. This wondrous machine could turn all sorts of unsightly yard debris into fine-looking mulch, ideal for bedding around our shrubs.

One must use caution when feeding the whirring blades of such a powerful grinder. I was taking care to keep my hands well clear of its teeth as I fed in leaves and limbs. But as I lifted a bundle of medium-size twigs to drop them into the chute, one of the branches snagged my watch and yanked it from my wrist. I saw it falling but there was nothing I could do. It landed at the bottom of the chute on a branch that was being pulled rapidly toward the ferocious teeth. In two seconds there was a loud BRAAAAAT sound and my watch was gone.

I quickly shut the chipper down, unhooked the mulch bag and pawed through its contents. I found a scattering of small silvery shavings but nothing that could be remotely identified as a watch part. Oh well, there were a lot more limbs to chip so I fired the machine back up and continued my task.

Later Peggy and I joked about my losing a lot of time that morning. Time had just gotten away from me, I punned. And then it occurred to me that the sudden destruction of my watch was like a parable - not a very profound one, perhaps, but a parable none-the-less.

That watch, though not very expensive, was a technological wonder. It not only told me the precise time of day - in Atlanta and in several other cities - it also kept track of the day of the week, the month and the year. It would beep me at certain set times during the day and awaken me in the morning. Its stopwatch would even alert me when the steaks on the grill were medium rare. And in the night when darkness concealed its face, a mere touch of my finger and its numbers would illuminate. I trusted its accuracy. I relied on its dependability. Then, in two ticks of its digital second hand, it was no more.

How amazing, how fragile, are the systems that we rely upon to order and sustain our lives. Whether the precise ticking on my wrist or the steady beating within my chest, the mechanisms of life are intricately and wonderfully made. So regular and dependable are they that I am scarcely aware of their steady motion. I may pay more conscious attention to a visible timepiece than the rhythm of my breathing, but my primary reliance rests more on the silent, less visible forces of life.

I am aware, too, of a much deeper reliance, an ultimate reliance, upon an invisible Force whose creativity initiates and sustains all that has life. I may thoughtfully plan my days and schedule my hours, but time - like a watch disappearing into the jaws of a grinder - is ultimately beyond my control. Yet, a confidence in the steadfastness of that benevolent Source of life allows me to face with joy and anticipation the unpredictable realities that daily unfold before me.

The following day I replaced my destroyed watch with a new one that has all the same remarkable functions. I continue to marvel at the ingenuity that went into its creation. And continue to marvel, too, at the creativity of the Initiator and Sustainer of all that has life and breath.

Bob Lupton

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