Life on the Timetable

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The Modern life is lived on the timetable.

On a daily basis, our focus falls on moving from point A to B. We climb up the ladder, catch the boat, and race to the head of the pack. We create schedules to shortcut slip ups. Any change in plans is suspect as we are forced to face a whole new set of variables. We are obsessed with laying nest eggs and we are terrified of uncertainty.

The true mark of the modern man is his aversion to risk and his shortage of spontaneity. We set our sights squarely on the end goal: happiness. And sometimes, things do work out. Promotions happen, families are made, homes are filled, retirements are secured. Things go as planned and suddenly we realize that there is no such thing as fate.

But then, one day, the test comes back positive. The car crashes. The dog dies. The rain never comes. The home is foreclosed. The marriage splits. The kids grow up. The parents get old. And the world keeps spinning.

When life shows us how untamable it really is, we find ourselves facing that color-coded calendar, wide eyed and stunned.

How did we slip through the cracks?

Instead of accepting the ambiguity of our tomorrows, we like to theorize about them. Most of us live our lives this way, continually concocting scenarios out of our expectations.

And for those that have been bruised by the rough side of life, the timetable can be a threatening thing. Instead of holding out for the hope of happiness, we shutter with every step forward. Some see five-year plans, others only see minefields. For the latter, Tick-Tock can sound like a countdown to the crash.

 

I’m experienced in this area. Several times I have connected more to the crystal ball than to reality. Many mornings I would find myself paralyzed in bed, thinking if I laid there long enough, I could stop it. I could change my foreseeable future.

But rational thoughts are no competition with the broken record.

I would start to think about my friends getting married, again and again. My siblings having children again and again. The single-bedroom apartments I would rent, again and again. Cold Christmases, again and again. Lonely feelings, again and again. Night after night. Again and again.

Tick-tock

Tick-tock

Tick-tock

It hung over me like a dark cloud and I didn’t see the point in moving through the next chapter. Life had become something to get through.

Thankfully, someone stepped in.

“The future… its just so… out there, you know ? It’s completely theoretical, you have no idea where you’ll be, what you’ll be doing, who you’ll be with, or whether you’ll be with anyone. All you have is right now, right here.”

The truth that took so long to sink in finally provided the peace I was desperate for:

That I am not guaranteed the next five years. The next five days.

Or the next five seconds.

All I have is now.

The rest is theory.

Life is too unpredictable to be lived on the timetable. It’s too precious to be wasted worrying.

And every now then, we get a chance to face down false fears.

Because,

Even though I feared they would, my parents didn’t hate me when I came out.

Even though I feared losing my closest friend, she didn’t leave my side.

Even though I feared the loss of my faith, it began to thrive.

Even though I planned to do it, I didn’t and I started living for the first time.

When I finally figured this out, I recalled a line I resonated with in the film Along Came Polly:

 It’s not about what happened in the past, or what you think might happen in the future. It’s about the ride, for Christ’s sake. There is no point in going through all this crap, if you’re not going to enjoy the ride. And you know what… when you least expect something great might come along. Something better then you even planned for. –Irving Feffer speaking to the worrywart Rueben. 

Stop theorizing, stop scheduling, stop worrying.

And start living.

 

RR

 

*Photo Credit

TreePeople

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“22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into[a] the village.”

         – Mark 8:22-26 (NIV, emphasis mine)

One of the greatest treasures within the story of Christ is his sneaky way of inserting subtext into all of his actions. It keeps us guessing, and more importantly, expresses the eternally relevant messages that freshen our eyes with every turn of the page.

Taking the blind man by the hand, Jesus led him to a remote location where they could be alone. No crowds, no ovations. Just an intimate one-on-one conversation.

Between the lines of this story remains that mysterious walk and the conversation that must’ve occurred. It seems, and I have no real historical evidence for this, that Jesus intended this walk to be an intake of sorts. I think he wanted to hear this man’s story. More importantly, I think he wanted to establish a friendship.

After they settled into their makeshift hangout, Jesus spit on this man’s eyes and then laid his hands upon them. When he asked him what he saw, the man gave one of the most easily understandable descriptions, people look like trees, I know they’re not trees, but that’s what they look like. Jesus received the man’s perceptions, laid his hands upon his eyes again, and perfected his vision.

In 1st Corinthians, Paul writes:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  -1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV, emphasis mine)

 

Jesus did not have to make a second go at healing this man. He was all-powerful. If he wanted to, he could’ve snapped his fingers and given this man the eyes of a hawk. But there was a deeper subtext he sought to convey.

We all have moments when all we need is perspective. Two weeks after I came out, I remember lying on the couch in the living room, burying my face in a pillow, shouting at my parents about the loss of my sanity. Seriously.

In the tangled mess of my thoughts I started to question whether I truly existed or if I was living in some sort of Matrix. I threw my middle finger in the air at a God that I had reduced to a mere flight of the imagination. And I just laid there, shivering in a nightmarish world that I had no hope of waking up from.

My mom looked at me, smiling.

“Honey. You’ve known that you were gay for roughly ten years and have been afraid to open up about it until now. Furthermore, you came out to the whole family and you did so less than 24 hours after a failed suicide attempt. That is a lot to happen all at once, for anyone. Now, here’s what we can do. If you believe that you are truly losing your grip on reality, you can come upstairs and lay in our bed for as long as you want. We could just sit on this for a few days. I think after this night is over, you will see that much of this is simply the anxiety of the moment. If it turns out its not, we’ll go to the hospital.”

She couldn’t possibly put herself in my head that night or roll the tape of my past decade. This was completely unfamiliar territory for her. But yet, she could still relate somehow. She knew what it was like to be swept away in the anxiety avalanche and she knew where to look for the clearing in the clouds. She took what her tears taught her and showed me that trees are not people.

That what I see is not necessarily what is.

The dialogue that takes place in Mark is an undertone of a greater truth. It is an intentional example of how we are all blind when left to our own devices. Without the hands of healers and the words of the wise we will always fail to see where we are situated in the greater story. I don’t think that this account is simply about repairing the fellow’s retinas. It was about restoring reality.

In our prayer life, the old adage: “pray until something changes or you change”, fits this story well. When we meet with Christ, he desires us to vent about our life. He wants us, if just for a minute, to forget the fact that he already knows and instead let him in like we would a confidant. I think he wants to take that walk with us first. As we return and return to that oasis of confidence, he continues to rub our eyes clean of lies.

It’s clear that Christ is the only force capable of clearing out our inner cobwebs, but that doesn’t mean that this happens only through prayer.

It’s a call to walk with one another no matter the distance. It’s a promise that when we reach that place of intimacy, we will see that our walls are stumbling blocks not shields. In that place, we stop theorizing about the future. We cry out: Carpe Diem! The scales slowly pile up at our feet and our distortions no longer deny us that sweet breath of life. And then, we dust one another off and take a different road home.

We see trees and we see people.

RR