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Potential

Time is not the enemy.

Time is the medium.

Today I turn 50. Say what you will, 50 is serious. 50 is no longer playing around. 50 is not where you are going anymore. 50 is where you are. 50 isn’t a stop on the way. 50 is the destination.

Only, that’s not really true, is it?

Worlds change in half a century. We went from fighting in ditches with daggers on antique guns to splitting an atom and decimating a whole city in 50 years. We went from driving in horse and buggies to soaring through the sky in 50 years. We went from taking days to travel across the country to walking on the moon in 50 years. We went from waiting days to communicate with distant loved ones via paper and pen to streaming video instantly across space to the utmost corners of the globe in 50 years.

Today I turn 50, and 50 is serious.

But so am I.

I’m finally serious.

I’m having a bit of an emotional crisis at this season of my life. Oh, don’t worry about me. Emotional crisis isn’t anything new for me. It’s part of the up and down of being human, Frankly I am honored to have the reminder that I am alive, I am feeling, and I am human. But after 50 years, I’m finally seeing something new.

You see, I was worried. Not worried that I wouldn’t come out of this angst nor worried that it was more than I can handle. No, I’ve always had the supernatural ability to be brave and to seek to choose the courageous path forward. What had me worried was time.

Time is the thief of us all, it is said.

Time is the greatest foe of will

Time is the beast that devours us one bite at a time, patiently, methodically, willing to wait a lifetime to bring down its prey. And it has almost never failed to do so.

Time had me worried for one reason. Let me explain. I said I have the supernatural ability to be brave and seek to choose the courageous path forward. That being said there is one obstacle that can neutralize my virtue. It’s not a question of making the right choice, it a problem of maintaining it. Here’s how it works. I choose to be brave and stand against the onslaught of my heartbreaking emotions. When I do, they seem to back down, to break like waves on a rock. But like those waves know the secret of conquest.

Repetition

Repetition

Repetition

It’s not the wave that is the problem. It’s the waves. It’s the endless waves of waves. It’s time.

Do you ever feel like Peter trying to stay awake in the garden while Jesus goes off to pray? Somethings not right. You know it. Jesus has asked you to stay and pray, and you so want to. The first few minutes are great. You owe everything to Jesus. Something is heavy on his mind and you want to be there for him. You WILL be there for him even if it takes your life. Even if it mean you are to bleed, to fight, to die, and …. and…. and…

He’s been gone for so long, hasn’t he? And it’s sooo late. You’re eyes are so heavy. But you must… must… must what again? Pray, right. You must … pray…. But wait, you HAVE prayed. You did what he said. He didn’t say how long, did he. Just wait and pray. You’ve waited… You’ve prayed… now maybe just a few seconds you can.. can..

There he is shaking you awake. “Peter! Peter! Wake up! My soul is vexed to the point of death. Watch with me! Watch and pray! For me, Peter. For me.”

But then he’s gone again, and the night is so dark, the hour so late, and your cloak so warm. Oh curse your nature and your weakness. The spirit is so willing, but the body so weak. You can chose the right way, and make the holy choice but your true weakness isn’t the hour, or the darkness.

Your true weakness is time.

I feel this. And yet I have just come to a realization about something. Just now. It took me just a moment to discover the real secret. Well, a few moments and 50 years. Dwell on something long enough and the answer will have to eventually crack open to you.

You just have to give it enough time.

And that’s the answer right there.

You see all these 50 years I’ve been looking at it wrong. I bought into the myth that time is the enemy of it all. I couldn’t stand up agains the waves, and waves of waves because I had set myself up against an unbeatable foe. I had pledged my fragile will against something that no human’s will can defeat. I had made an enemy of time.

And here’s the secret.

Ready?

I think you’ve beaten me to it already. And you are so right.

Time is not the enemy.

Time is the medium.

An enemy is to be fought, to be vanquished. To be victorious over or trodden underfoot. The goal is to crush it and see it driven before you. But time is not some great dragon to pit your will against.

Rather time is a canvas. The hours are your paints. The days are your brushes. The months are your easel, and the years are your gallery. Time is not the destruction of your will, but the breath you have to gather it, to strategy it, to rest it, to collect it, and to try it again. Time is your second chance, and your third chance, and your four chance, and your 50th chance.

Time is your muse.

Time is your life.

So now I look at this challenge of emotions in my life and am faced with the same obstacle I have faced before. I need to be brave and make the wise choices now. Tomorrow I will be tired and the emotions will come flooding back in again. This part remains the same. But here’s the divergence. While before I would despair and pray to move ahead in my life to such a time when they would disperse and I could resume living. Days and weeks of my life wasted in a desperate bid to be done with this season.

Time was my enemy.

But now, now I know to embrace the season I’m in, mess and all. Time is not my enemy in this season. Time is my dearest friend. Time is the canvas I get to paint on. And yes some of the colors might be dark and brooding, but others with be clean and joyful. The contrast is simply breathtaking, and heartbreaking. With time as your friend, and your muse, you don’t miss out on the season you are in waiting for it to be over. I feel people who do that watch their life slip by them in bits and chunks until 50 years lay behind them and all they have is regrets.

I was thinking about life when I was young. I was thinking about how in my 20’s I was full of dreams and potential. How great things were expected of me, and promised to me, and wished upon me. I spent most of my time dreaming of what would be and how the world was to be my adventure. It was wonderful, and hopeful, and dangerous. The danger was that one can spend their entire youth living in the future and missing out on the adventure they live in where they are.

I was thinking about life in my present. In my 40’s one’s focus tends to get pulled towards the nostalgic. The adventure isn’t in what is ahead, but rather in rose-colored versions of what lay behind. It’s everything from the Christmas presents you remember as a child.. not necessarily the item itself but the emotions they conjure. The movies, musics, friends, romances, hopes, dreams, carefree life. The danger is the one can spend the remainder of their maturity living in the past and missing out on the adventure they are in now.

Be careful. Your can miss your whole life blinded by lust for dreams and legacy. Your days can tick away while your yell “What if” and “If only” into that endless void. You can waste your whole life wondering what happened to your whole life.

That’s the thing about potential. We think it lives in the distant future and the foggy past. We fool ourselves by seeing it only as what could be and what once was. However time as a canvas not an enemy has revealed a truth to me. The value of potential is to peal it now, and eat the fruit inside today. The secret of potential is not…

What will be

What was

Rather, what IS.

The canvas is blank. Ready to be painted on. It is nothing but boring, plain, empty potential. Don’t waste your life obsessed with what it could be.

Paint on it.

Don’t worry about not living up to your potential. The only way you will do that is by not doing and being who you are today. You do today what you can do, and “surprise surprise” – tomorrow you will be able to do what you couldn’t today. That’s what happens when you embrace time not as an enemy but rather as a canvas. Create your life studio one painting at a time. Some of them will be breathtaking. Some of them will be heartbreaking. Some will be fearful to behold. Some will be enrapturing. That’s life, baby. Don’t look at your empty gallery only dreaming of how it will one day be full. Don’t look at your full gallery and think that it’s enough. It never is. Let the last painting in your life gallery be unfinished.

One last thing about time…

One of my dearest friends read my first two lines in confusion. He didn’t quite get it. He said it was hard to follow because I was mixing metaphors. It would have been smoother had I said “Time is not an enemy. Time is a friend” or “Time is not painting. Time is a canvas”. Fair enough. The thing about time is that is simple doesn’t exist EXEPT in a mix of metaphors. Past is only a record kept by record keepers and the future is only fantasy and prediction. The only thing that exists for us linear wave-riders is what we are right now. So, mix your metaphors. They’re only literary devices to help us understand things a little better from a divine perspective anyways. Dream all the dreams and soak in all the memories. Just don’t forget where your true potential lies…

The moment your brush strokes the canvas.

Today I am 50 and 50 is serious. I am not moving into the part of my life where the best things are behind me. Nor will I buy in to the rhetoric that my best days are ahead of me. TODAY I am 50. TODAY is my canvas. TODAY is the day I will live. TODAY is the best day of my life. I don’t know how many more paintings I have in front of me, but there is an empty spot on my gallery for the one I’m going to add today. One day I will leave my last painting unfinished. This is not a curse of time, but my way of saying goodbye to it. One day we will part not as enemies, not as friends, but as an artist saying goodbye to its medium. And my hope those who I love that I leave behind will look deeply at it, contemplate it deeply, sigh and say…

“It is so full of potential!”

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