Truly did James say, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). It’s this existential experience of being marvels and mists that we find bewildering. We find it a strange phenomenon to watch our lives move relentlessly along a continuum, leaving experiences that are massively important to us in an increasingly distant past, while our earthly end — the end of the only reality we’ve ever known — approaches with unnerving speed. It recurrently catches us by surprise.
It’s been ten years since my father died. A decade. Already? Nearly 20 percent of my lifetime has passed since I last saw him. Where did the time go?
My oldest child recently turned 24. To me it seems that almost yesterday I was holding that precious newborn, singing softly to him while slowly pacing in the hospital room. But in reality, I’ve since lived 44 percent of my lifetime. Where did the time go?
Thirty-six years ago, I began dating a beautiful 16-year-old girl whom I had the extraordinary privilege of marrying four years later. Scenes from that hot, sunny, summer day when it all began are still vivid to me, and have a hue of new about them. Yet 65 percent of my life has managed to slip by since that monumental moment became a memory. Where did the time go?
Where did the time go? Why do we all ask some form of that question — and ask it over and over as the years pass? It’s not like we don’t know. Each of the approximately 3,700 days since my father died, the 8,800 days since my son was born, and the 13,200 days since my wife and I began dating passed just like the ones before it. The days accumulated over time. It’s simple math.
But of course, it’s not the math that bewilders us. We’re bewildered by something far more profound — that this life we’ve been given, this significant existence with all its sweet and bitter dimensions, passes so quickly and then is gone.
We Are Marvels
We all intuitively discern that our lives have profound significance. Even when we’re told they don’t, we don’t really believe it — or if we really do, we no longer want to live. We also intuitively discern that there is profound significance to the great human story-arc, with all of its collective triumphs and tragedies.