The Longest Shortest Time
With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. – 2 Peter 3:8 (NRSV)
The mysterious alchemy of sacred time, according to 2 Peter, sounds a lot like the dual nature of time with children.
Time with kids does weird things. It drags. Like an endless witching hour bouncing on a yoga ball with a colicky newborn until your arms fall off, or ten minutes keeping a squirrelly toddler from certain death (which you’d swear was at least an hour), or the longest awkward silence with a pubescent tweenager. There are days that feel like eternities, bottomless pits leading to new levels of exhaustion.
Time with kids does weird things. It flies. Like some kind of fast-forward warp-speed carnival ride, the clock hands spinning. Parents throughout every age rub their eyes and ask the perennial question: “When and how did my little baby turn into this big kid?” or eventually “…into this grown adult, sometimes, this stranger?”
The comedian Tig Notaro has a joke that all her friends who are having kids send out totally predictable updates inevitably laced with the question, “Can you believe it?” Like, “Caitlin is starting kindergarten this year. Can you believe it?” After a long pause, she deadpans, perfectly: “I don’t know. I mean, what is she, about five? That sounds about right. Yeah, I can believe that.” It’s funny because it’s true. But when it’s your kid, the simple reality of time passing is hard to believe, impossible and miraculous, both the thing most longed-for and most wished-against.
The days are long, but the years are short, as many a well-meaning acquaintance has offered to frazzled parents just trying to make it to bedtime. Time with kids, like time with God, does weird things. It is the longest, shortest time (which also happens to be the name of my favorite parenting podcast). It drags and flies, expands and contracts. And through it all, God is patient with us.
Eternal One, all time is yours. Remind us, by your amazing grace, that when we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing your praise, than when we’d first begun.
Kit Novotny contributed this devotional to Hard and Holy: Devotions for Parenting, a collection of spiritual encouragement and practical solidarity and messy joy. Order Hard and Holy today.