Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Single-File Parade

Last night I dreamed of a parade, and a strange affair it was. Interminably long, an odd single-file line of marchers walked past, each person a virtual twin of the one before them, yet with only the slightest differences. After a thousand or so had passed by the small changes had added up to someone who looked very different from the marchers so far ahead. On and on went the line: 25,000 long, perhaps 30,000 or more before I woke. Above each one arched the sun and the moon in their turn, casting golden--then silver, light upon each person. Some marchers danced, others wept, still others trudged in dreary sameness. 
Through the night I dreamt and the parade continued by, each member ever-so slightly older than the one before. As I began the transition between sleep and wakefulness I realized I had witnessed the march of a single lifetime: 70 years, or eighty if our strength endures. I was awake, and the revelation was complete: we experience life in a single-file parade of 25,000 days or more, each one so much like the day before, yet unique as if a new creation.
Which of us has ever lived life backwards? Even Benjamin Button, who grew from old to young, lived his life in a succession of days, one after the other, never two together. The days march in line, each one connected to the previous, linked to the next, but never overlapping.
It is a quiet revelation, but no less true: God created the march of days and has ordained that each one of us will experience them in the same manner. Which of us has ever lived two days simultaneously? Or jumped from day 4,000 to day 7,000? It is beyond us to do so, though in our hearts and thoughts we may try. It may seem like a no-brainer, but we all are given the gift of life one day at a time, and our attempts to live them out of order come at great expense.
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself,” said Jesus. Then he added one of the strangest promises found in scripture: “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6: 34)
Yet some people are obsessed with future days. The financial advisor pushes his chair away from his desk after reading these words and thinks, surely he can’t be serious. The student facing final exams in the coming weeks wonders if Jesus has lost his mind. The family trying to find the money for the next mortgage payment are convinced he never had a bill to pay. For each of them, sleep is a fair-weather friend. Meanwhile Jesus rambles on about birds and flowers. He instructs us to seek first God’s Kingdom and everything else will be magically “added to us.” Clearly, he doesn’t get the same emails we do.
The Creator, who exists outside of time and space, has ordained that should live in a world mediated by the passage of time. God set the whole thing up: we live our lives in the succession of days one after another because he wanted it to be so. Have we ever considered the fact that God chose this manner of living for us? He designed our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our souls to live in this moment and not any other. He demonstrates his wisdom and care for us in the passage of time: we do not have to drag the past along with us nor bear the burden of future days on our shoulders all at once.
The past can store the treasures of lessons and memories, the future can be the repository of hopes or fears, but both of them are inhospitable homes for our hearts--or his Spirit.
He is the Eternal Now. God’s presence is available to us only in the now. We cannot experience his presence in the future because we do not live there. We cannot experience his presence in the past because we have moved on. His presence is here for us today. We do not need to worry about the future because he is not bound by time. He sits in the future and awaits our arrival. He’ll be there when we get there, but wouldn’t it be a shame to miss him in the now?


  1. I love this post and can really relate to it.
    The final lines were spot on. There is such a fine line between responsibility and seeking first God's Kingdom, but then again, it's clear that the Kingdom must come first on our to do lists, our desires, and in every other way. It's easy to repeat that truth, but a bit harder to actually do it!

  2. So true, Ed. You can almost hear the voice of reason saying, "First, let me bury my father, then I'll come and follow you."

  3. I love how you put Benjamin Button in this article. Here is a quote from the movie's trailer: “Life can only be understood looking backward. It must be lived forward.”

    Yesterday, we learn in class (from a substitute of Ray Hollenbach). That we have burdens that are like stones pull us back from giving all we have to God. Burdens like hatred, anger, and of course worry.

    It is not easy to realize that we have been keeping ourselves away from God but yet we claim that He walked away from us. It is truly a shame that we did and say bad things about our Father when He is our Father!

    It is also often a OK thing for us today to put things on hold. We are so used to pushing the pause button that we dare to put God on hold. This article truly is a reminder to me! Thanks a lot!!!

  4. So true, Ed. You can almost hear the voice of reason saying, "First, let me bury my father, then I'll come and follow you."