Time like an ever-rolling stream 0
One day you will hear the sound of time rustling as it slips through your fingers like sand. – SERGEI LUKYANENKO
He was sitting in his car at the end of the driveway to the church a few weeks ago, attentively watching all that was taking place on the other side of the Boulevard in Petawawa.
Within his vision, railway workers and heavy equipment were busily engaged in lifting heavy steel rails, creosote-covered sleepers and metal joints, they were moving up the line inch by inch, lifting the track section by section, all under his watchful gaze.
Leaving the church building I wandered out to the parked car. When he rolled down his window I said, “Good morning,” to which there there came the quick response, “It’s the end of an era.”
As both of us turned our eyes from each other to the sights and sounds across the highway there was a momentary silence, a hush, an unspoken common acknowledgement that he and I were indeed witnessing a historical moment here on the boulevard, the passing of an age that was best expressed in his own words – “the end of an era.”
Time indeed was moving on. It was back in the pre-Confederation days of July 21, 1836 when the first wood-fired steam engine locomotive chugged along the newly laid tracks in La Prairie, Quebec. That was the beginning of the railway era here in Canada, and now in its Third Millennium the curtain was being pulled on the railroad in the Upper Ottawa Valley.
Eras come and go, don’t they?
A week or so before my encounter with my newly acquired friend, NASA engineers and ground crew had meticulously orchestrated the landing of the Curiosity Mars Rover on the red planet, a spectacular feat. Seven or eight days later on August 15 the U.S. military conducted a test flight on its hypersonic jet Waverider, clocking it at a speed of 3,600 mph – unquestionably the dawn of new eras of flight and space travel was peeking at us from around the next corner.
“Wow!” I thought, “time sure flies.” I recall being witness to the first lunar landing, on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong left a human footprint on the surface of the moon. I was 24, and attending Summer School at George Brown College in Toronto. They marshalled all of us students into a large auditorium to see it happen. Astonishingly, that was more than 43 years ago!
Since my generation of the ‘Builders’, the Baby Boomers have come, followed in quick succession by generations x, y and z, and to be quite honest with you, when you’re young you never quite envision the day when pension cheques will be delivered to your rural route mailbox, when kids will call you “Sir,” when you will ask for a ‘senior’s coffee’, or when, on picking up the local daily newspaper, the first thing you may be inclined to do is to check the ‘Obituaries.’ Those are the furthest things from your mind! But mark my words, the day comes, and it sneaks up on you unexpectedly with the military precision of a trained sniper.
Blow out the near 70 candles on the decorated birthday cake and you dare not inhale – lest you die of smoke inhalation!
The Bible has an interesting phrase found between its covers. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon, famed for being the wisest man on earth, penned these words, “He (God), has also set eternity in the hearts of men and women..” It claims that when God created us, He made us with a built-in sense that beyond the expiry of life on this planet, eternity would await us.
Some day, my friend, you and I will breathe our very last breath, that revelation has been made known to you by the Creator, given to you at birth, deposited in your heart by God Himself. In the course of the last year as I’ve seen eternity showing its face on the distant horizon of my life, I concluded that I wanted to be better prepared than I am, so I headed out and picked up a copy of Billy Graham’s latest book “Nearing Home.”
Whether you’re prepared or unprepared for the ultimate reality of life, I urge you to go and pick up a copy. On top of that, I’m journeying through a 500-page (plus) book on “Heaven,” thinking to myself, I know a lot about heaven, I’m a pastor and I should know a lot about it – but I want to know so much more before I go there.
It was James, the brother of Jesus, who penned some of the most insightful words in the entire Bible. “What is your life?” he asked, and then quickly answered, “You are a mist that appears for a little while – and then vanishes.” (The Bible, James 4:14)
That’s what you are my friend, you’re a fall morning Ottawa Valley mist, you’re here one moment and gone the next! Don’t make the fatal mistake of concluding that you’re going to be around for a long time, that kind of naive presumption may leave you on that final day of your life spiritually quite unprepared to meet Jesus Christ face to face.
“Time and tide wait for no one,” goes the old saying. Who would have thought they’d be witnessing the lifting of the old railroad? My friend at the end of the church driveway certainly would never have guessed that. A steam engine enthusiast, he remarked thoughtfully, “My wife and daughter used to travel to Ottawa by train, to shop.”
Yet as he sat there watching, and I stood beside his car, it was more than the end of an era, more than the end of a railroad, it was time moving on, second by second, hour by hour, day by day, and with it our own lives inching ever the more closer to the dawn of eternity.
Rev. Eric Strachan is pastor of New Life Community Church in Petawawa.