I’m not sure about you--well, actually, I have heard this from some of you--but time is imminently strange right now.
The pandemic has made me uncertain about time. Did that event happen last April, August, or was it in the fall or winter? The past year is blurry in its memories and chronology. The pandemic lock down and the lack of rituals that mark time has dislocated us and made it hard to remember if it’s Friday or September or May.
Further, I am looking back over 40 years of campus Chaplaincy, making meaning of that history and experience, remembering it vividly and fondly. Doing so makes me both tired and exhilarated, quickening my breath, and reminding me of painful episodes and joyous connections. I am retiring in one month. What will become of me in the future, how will I spend my days? How will I be useful? What will happen to what I leave behind here?
April is the season in which we plan to say goodbye to graduating students and retiring colleagues. My staff and I are also attempting to both close out the year and to plan for a fall we cannot yet imagine, for events and students who urgently desire a sense of “normalcy” that we fear will be premature and unsatisfying.
What is next for any of us? What is in the future?
Over the weekend, a friend asked me a question I often ask others “where has God been in this time?" Has God been here with us in our confusion and dislocation? The Holy One, Great Spirit, Wind of Life does not live in linear time, but the Creator’s face is toward every moment now, neither past nor future, but eternal.
You and I worry about the future because it is before us, unexperienced and untested, because it represents change. But God lives eternally in the now that is somehow unchanged. In some weird way, that settles me. No time will come when God has not been there. No change occurs without the eternal presence. Whenever I am, I am not alone; the eternal time encompassing past and future too is there too, always there.
And if your brain needs something more interesting to riddle than how many students can fit, distanced, in any given room, or how many angels dance on the head of a pin, then this eternal time may suffice for your meditative koan.
If you want to be where the eternal holy is, then choose the now. It’s hard--I am convinced, harder these days than at any other time. But so necessary, full enough, and beckoning our hearts to rest. Now, now, only now.
The Rev. Dr. Jan Fuller is University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org