The fragile nature of time

August 25, 2010

“Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” I cited this quote on Sunday morning, crediting my old boss Frank Harrington saying it to me when I was talking with him about the murder of a friend. After crediting Frank on Sunday, I had numerous people telling me that it’d from a John Lennon song.

    OK, maybe it is (and I know it is, I’ve seen it now), but regardless, it’s so true. I witnessed it last week when my friend Vic Pentz’s nephew died at the ripe young age of 28. I realized it when I was tapped to preach at 11:15 because Vic needed to be with his family in California.

    And, dadgummit, I realized it Tuesday (yesterday) when my daughter called to say she had a flat tire on the way to school. “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray”? Hey, folks, I’m an obsessive-compulsive, Type-A, anal-retentive neurotic who likes to plan his work and work his plan. And suddenly I saw my plan going out the window.

    I arrived at the scene of the flat to discover that this was not redeemable. She’d clipped a LARGE piece of wood on the side of the road that tore a hole in the sidewall. No problem, teachable moment, right? “OK, today you learn how to change a flat.” I had her back into a side street, then proceeded to show her how to jack the car up, loosen then remove the lugs, pull the tire off, and replace it with the (temporary—why do they make those crummy things?) spare. We lowered the Jeep, to find that the spare was flat.

    So I take her to school, loop back and get the original flat, take it to Goodyear (we’re on first name basis there, we’re in so much!) only to find that the tire size is unusual, and it will be another day before they can change the tire. So later in the day AAA was called in, and after a long delay (goshawful traffic, too many emergencies), they showed up, aired up the temp spare, and followed her home (those guys are good!)

    Today I picked up the tire, will put it on when I get home, and try to redeem time. Is that possible?

    It got me to thinking about the fragile nature of time.

    When I was a Junior in college, my parents had come into town for a visit. I hung out with them at their motel room until they were ready for bed; I got a bucket of ice for them, and said good-bye, when Dad asked for another bucket. I got that, made my delivery, and headed back to the dorm. On the way, the car in front of me was trying to turn into a pizza place, and waved someone trying to exit the pizza place out. I swung into the inside lane to go around the slowpoke, not knowing he had waved the other car out (illegally, I might add), when I ran into them as they pulled out in front of and crossing me. My Toyota Celica died that night.

    For the remaining years he was alive, I always joked with Dad that if he’d not asked for another bucket of ice, I’d not have been in that accident.

    The fragile nature of time. Had K left earlier or later, maybe she would not have had a flat (that has cost me $115 so far.) Maybe I would have intersected someone else at work, maybe not. All I know is that we live in the moment. That doesn’t mean you don’t plan, it simply means that you live a day at a time, and sometimes—too often—moment-by-moment.

    At points along the way of life’s journey, I have asked people that I have respected for a single piece of advice. Forgetting everything else, knowing me as you do, and in the context of my life, what advice would they give? Shortly after the birth of our first daughter, I did that; and the advice I received was “Carpe diem; seize and live each day, don’t wait for tomorrow.” It’s not bad advice.

    Time is fragile, folks. Take care of it—and yourself. And those you love!

  Two incredibly humbling experiences today–at least so far.

  Early this morning I was privileged to sit down with a man who professed “discontent” with his life. It’s a discontent brought on by several things (none that I’ll go into here), but they are sort of things that all of us could find in life, and cause us to feel a sense of discontent. What amazed me was how he talked about the difference that IRONMEN has made in his life.

  For the record, and for those who don’t know and may care to know, IRONMEN is the men’s ministry at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA. we meet Tuesday mornings at 7:00 in the Lodge, where on a regular basis, 100+/- men meet weekly, September through June. It’s an incredible experience, drawing guys from their 20’s to their 80’s together, to meet our stated goal of “equipping men to be a positive influence for Jesus Christ at home, at work, and in the community.” After one of our speakers presents on a topic (come September we’ll start a 7-week series growing out of Tony Dungy’s book Uncommon), we have discussion around tables guided by trained Table Leaders. The magic of IRONMEN is what happens around these tables, where guys become honest, authentic, and sometimes amazingly transparent. I regularly hear men say that IRONMEN makes them a better man, a better husband, a better Dad. All I know is that often, IRONMEN is the highlight of my week.

Then at lunch today, laughing and talking about favorite restaurants with a good friend and fellow IRONMAN, I heard much the same. In a note, he said, “TRONMEN has become a very important part of my week.” Here’s a guy who is so elevated in the hierarchy of a major corporation based in Atlanta–who is close to being transferred into retirement–that he says he will plan his forays into and meetings in Atlanta so he can be with us on Tuesday mornings. I’m darn near speechless.

But I know that I am incredibly privileged to be a part of something that changes lives. God is at work; and I get to be a witness to that.