In his novel, The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes has the narrator, Tony, ruefully compare his life to that of his old friend, Adrian:
What did I know of life, I who had lived so carefully? Who had neither won nor lost, but just let life happen to him? Who had the usual ambitions and settled all too quickly for them not being realized? Who avoided hurt and called it a capacity for survival? Who paid his bills, stayed on good terms with everyone as far as possible, for whom ecstasy and despair soon became just words once read in novels? One whose self-rebukes never really inflicted pain? Well, there was all of this to reflect upon, while I endured a special kind of remorse: a hurt inflicted at long last on one had always thought he knew how to avoid being hurt and inflicted for precisely that reason (p. 155).
Tony gives voice to the regrets which plague a person who lives in fear, steers around risk, and seeks the insulation of illusory safety. Most of us learn, as Tony did, that to make the avoidance of pain and struggle one’s goal is not to avoid it, merely to delay it.
Poet Christian Wiman was right to say: “The greatest tragedy of human existence is not to live in time, in both senses of that phrase” (My Bright Abyss, p. 8). “Live in time” is the message I keep hearing, the challenge I keep receiving.
Live in time: in the minutes and hours of this day, in this eternal now, this fleeting but significant moment. Live in time: not in your head, not in abstraction, not in regret, not in anxiety, and not in denial. Live in messy, marvelous, and mysterious time, in the gift of the unrepeatable present.
Live in time, before it is too late for to enjoy the precious life God has entrusted into your hands. Invest your life, risk it, use it, share it, and give it away to the possibilities of joy, wonder, and laughter and for the sake of faith, hope, and love. Especially for the sake of love, because love shuts down whatever shuts us down; it causes fear to surrender and invites our lives, our true, full, and radiant lives, to rise.