I am not certain of its origin, but when my children were young, I came to appreciate the following saying pertaining to parenting infants and toddlers: “these are the longest days and the shortest years.”
The exhaustion of night feedings, keeping up with high energy levels, answering myriad “why” questions, cleaning up spills and changing diapers tended to make the days extremely busy; however, with limited adult conversation and very few changes in scenery, the minutes often seemed to tick by. Then, before I knew it, my babies were walking, my toddlers were in school, and I would, ironically, look at family photos with a melancholy desire to make time slow down.
Well, in 2020, time sure slowed down! It felt like “the shortest days and the longest year,” in my mind. The days seemed to evaporate as I endeavoured to teach both online and in a socially distanced manner, keep in touch virtually, and take advantage of “found time” at home for gardening, painting, cooking, and crafting projects. Each night, I hit the pillow exhausted yet surprised that the day was over. Many days flew by, yet the overall mood of the pandemic has left me feeling like March 2020 was about nine years - rather than nine months - ago.
Yet here we are at the beginning of 2021. Happy New Year!
A recent article written by John O’Leary has given me a fresh perspective on what my attitude towards this new year needs to be. He stated, “… assuming a lifespan of 75 years, you can look forward to living 27,375 days.”
O’Leary went on to say, “For me, this is far from some trivial exercise. Being aware of how finite my life is isn’t depressing, but inspiring, convicting, and prods me daily to ensure my life is congruent with my personal values, passion, and vocation …”
Why wait for the spectre of COVID-19 to depart to start celebrating the day? Why wait for the perfect time to begin the hobby, start the project, or tell them you’re sorry, you forgive her, or you love him? Why wait for everything to line up better to live better professionally, relationally, personally?”
I like O’Leary’s message: “Why wait?” Why should I wait to look through photos and ruefully mourn that time passed too quickly? Why not make the most of the time I have while I still have it? If the days are long, I must make them count. If the days are fast, I must make them count. If the world has slowed down, I must accept that pause as a gift. With so many losses – losses of life, losses of employment, losses of public worship, losses of freedom – we all need to discover the gifts hidden under the wrappings of loneliness and isolation.
When my kids were small, part of the reason the time passed slowly was because I felt lonely. I was not physically alone. I was grateful and I certainly wasn’t bored, but I longed for companionship - someone to understand me, to recognize me for myself and not just for the acts of service I completed. I longed for adult conversation. Eventually, I realized that I could only ever find this kind of company and conversation in the Lord.
During the pandemic, I have felt similar loneliness. I am blessed to have a full house because all our children still live at home. I am not physically alone; yet I feel a desire to see loved ones who are by themselves. I feel lonely because I have lost the freedom to seek company elsewhere, even though I am delighted with the company that is under my roof. Again, I realize that my loneliness and dissatisfaction stem from my need for the companionship that can only be provided by the Lord. He is with me every step. Whether the pace feels fast or slow, it is God’s time.
At Christmas, we celebrated the birth of Emmanuel: God with us. He is still with us.
Emmanuel is the gift we must unwrap each day. He alone enables us to make the most of our living, no matter what physical company we keep, no matter how quickly time passes, and no matter how many days we have left to live.
Each day counts and 2021 is our fresh start. Why wait?