It’s strange sometimes to think about things like moments.
We say, “I’ll only be a moment,” as if to assure someone it’s insignificant or harmless, but wars are fought in moments. Somewhere, a life begins and another ends in a moment. A couple is fighting, a desperate man is praying, a star is exploding. It’s really a miracle that we survive any of them.
So when I think of moments, something in me usually swells. The feeling sets on during seemingly ordinary times, but those tiny units of time themselves look somehow more special, chosen, ordained. Very suddenly, it’s as if I can sense some giant (or perhaps molecular) pushpin tacking that moment to the very baseboard of time, as if the history of the earth might otherwise ribbon right off into unorganized space.
It’s in these moments that I realize a landmark is being erected. It’s not pushpins, no, but ebenezers, that pin my story to the world, so that when I gaze backwards across the plains of time, I see the undeniable work of God in my life.
Most commonly, this happens when I start listening closely to a great song. I think music might be the nearest we’ll ever come to making a time machine.
One such monument — one of the first I knew, in fact — was a song performed by a band Dad took great interest in while I was young. The tune hit number one for a couple of weeks in the spring of 1986, but Dad continued to sing along to it long after I was born, and eventually I began to sing it with him, too. Neither one of us really knew what the lyrics meant.
“Kyrie eleison down the road that I must travel…”
The two words we most definitely weren’t sure of comprise one of the most important prayers in traditional Christian liturgy: kyrie eleison. They come from the Greek pronunciation of the phrase, “Lord, have mercy.” So whether I’d been aware of it or not, I grew up singing a thousand little prayers during my campaign of that song.
“Lord, have mercy down the road that I must travel,
Lord, have mercy in the darkness of the night.”
Again, I was young. I didn’t at all understand what I was actually singing then. And even if I had understood, I’m fairly certain I would never have believed back then about a God whom I needed in dark times.
But ebenezers were going up anyway.
Even then, God was staking a claim on what was his. I’m not sure whether those thousands of prayers back then were real, legitimate prayers, but I am pretty sure of this: they are all still being answered. And that just shows how good a storyteller God is.
I started searching for a place to live after Ashleigh said she’d be leaving. We weren’t paying a lot for our house at the time; it stood on the edge of one of the poorest neighborhoods in Nashville and was probably only a strong breeze away from demolition. But even still, I couldn’t afford to pay rent to live there on my own once she left.
I emailed our landlady about the situation. She seemed understanding, and we reached a verbal agreement that she’d let us out of the lease a year early without any penalty, as long as we forfeited our security deposit and a washer/dryer unit. I was happy to agree. During that summer, I would have been happy to agree with just about anything.
After a few weeks, I secured a one-bedroom apartment in the same neighborhood where Jared and Tim lived. Motivated out of a strange mix of something like shame, defiance, and selfishness, I decided that I needed to live in isolation — without roommates or anyone else getting in the way of me being me. I’d never lived alone before that. I had no expectations.
Dad and Mandi, my younger sister, drove out from Colorado to help move my things, but mostly for moral support.
Together, we made the house spotless for the landlady. We swept up dog hair from the floors, vacuumed Ashleigh’s scent from the carpets, patched and painted claw marks from windowsills, erasing all remaining physical evidence of two people in love. Sometimes, when I bury my face in the burlap-colored couch she left behind, I still imagine I can smell the dogs I miss so much, and her.
The new apartment was quiet. Within the first week of moving, I went to the pound and adopted a puppy, attempting to fill the growing loneliness I felt. It took hardly any time at all to realize I simply couldn’t handle a life in solitude, even though deep down, I’d convinced myself I deserved as much.
I cut ties and ran away from old friends. I wrestled daily within myself whether to seek out company and drive down the street to The White House (what the guys called their home), and struggled daily to relearn things I’d thought I’d had a good grasp on — how to make plans independently, how to talk to myself, how to sleep in a bed alone, in a silence void of another’s breath.
Looking back, I can barely remember living there at all. I suspect that might have been because during that time, I abandoned the present moment.
One of the most common pieces of advice I heard during that time, from nearly everyone, was this: ‘live in the moment.’ But I thought that sounded awfully cliché. I ignored it most of the time.
I would have done well to listen.
The monster of abandonment lingered in my immediate past; the goblin of divorce and loneliness haunted my immediate future. It became easy to complain and worry. And because I spent most of my present moments entirely focused on either past moments or moments that hadn’t happened yet (and mostly never would happen), I refused to engage the record button on my memory. I lost that time completely.
But here’s the second great thing about moments: they don’t hinge on you. That’s how they stay so big.
I’d been paying no attention to them while living at that apartment, but I didn’t need to remember them well to know that they were changing me. Like someone waking up from a coma, it was as if I’d suddenly found myself still sweetly subject to time, and it was still changing me –– in this case, and hopefully in every case, for the better.