I realized as soon as I said it that I had failed. Not only that, but I had sent someone away with a false sense of security in their current situation.
We’ve all done it- ended a conversation by simply nodding our heads and agreeing with whatever the parting sentiment of the conversation was. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, and this guy and I had talked several minutes. He told me about his dream to join the military, in spite of suffering in a near-fatal collision with a truck. He was on a bicycle. In spite of his injuries, he recovered enough to pass PT qualifications for the National Guard, and joined as a combat engineer. Basic training had not ended before he realized that his leg was not healed well enough. It was serious enough that once he went to the doctor, under direct order from his drill instructor, he was medically discharged.
“You have plenty of time.” I could blame him for setting me up to say that. He’s the one that seemed to be doing fine in spite of his setbacks. He led me into his line of thinking, that he’s young, now gainfully employed, new to the town, and ready to move forward.
But I was struck nearly immediately after I said the words. Time really is not on the side of any of us. And for those who have not made themselves right with God through the Gospel, time is more of an enemy than we ever realize.
Life seems to just go on and on, offering us chance after chance to do the things we need to do. Whether it’s change the oil in the car, make apologies for a wrong, or start a relationship with Jesus. What an insidious trickster time can be! It will take facts and twist them to suit our own fear and laziness, when we really need boldness and initiative to make the changes that are needed.
“Plenty of time” is one of those things we say when we see youth struggling with the decisions of life, especially when we don’t want someone we love to be rushed into a bad decision, or stressed out over tough decisions. Think, study, meditate, breathe, just wait, “because you have plenty of time.”
I want to stop living like, and stop treating people like, there’s plenty of time.
Scarcity of time is the problem. We have too little left to live. That isn’t a fear tactic- it’s a fact. The tragedies I have observed recently show me that this is true. Young lives too often are the most susceptible, and certainly the most tragic, targets of time and misfortune. Life is too fragile and moments are too precious. Anything worth doing is worth doing now.
I was moving on about my evening when out of nowhere this man comes back up. He’s admiring my cot, the military surplus one I got at an antique shop to sleep on in the fireworks tent. It’s just like the one he slept on in Basic, he said. Out of nowhere he’s talking about being on his own in the world. Why? What about your family? Parents dead, siblings estranged. Military dreams, the legacy left to him by grandparents and great-grandparents, dashed.
“Where is my place in this world?” Thank you for asking, sir, because I have a story to tell you…
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