A couple weeks ago my little sister and I spent an evening watching Toronto’s National Ballet Company perform Cinderella. It was exquisite. Everything about the evening was as close to perfect as could be. My sister and I were together, the city was bustling with the energy of summer, inside the theatre the orchestra’s music swelled and filled, and the dancers were magical in their retelling of a timeless fairytale.
The closing curtain fell and my sister and I stood to applaud. When a performance is magnificent, when the dancers have left everything onstage, when they’ve invited us into their world and we’ve let them into ours, there’s almost a mystical connection. Though they danced for a full house, for an audience of hundreds, they also danced just for us. It’s personal, somehow. My sister and I clapped until our arms hurt and our hands ached.
As we left the theatre and began walking through the downtown of our city, my sister looked at me and said, “Why don’t we do stuff like this more? We live in a city that has symphonies and operas, musicals and world class ballet companies. If we were tourists, we’d do as much of this as we could. It’s so easy to take it all for granted. We should start living as though we don’t live here.”
We should start living as though we don’t live here.
Those words have lingered because my sister’s right. She’s right in the literal sense that, as those who love the arts, we should enjoy what Toronto offers. But the truth of her words apply much more broadly, as well. They’re words that are true about life.
We should live life as though we’re visitors on this earth, as though we don’t live here, as though our time here is short and precious. We should live like we’re tourists passing through town because that is what we actually are.
Our time is finite. We live short lives with eternity stretching endlessly on either side. We inhale. We exhale. And then like a breath we’re gone.
If this is true, why do we spend so much of our time doing things with little value? It’s a timeless question with a variety of answers. But one answer is this: Maybe we squander the gift of time because we fail to realize what a precious gift it actually is. Maybe we need to start living as though we don’t actually live here.
We fail to do this whenever we wait till tomorrow to enjoy what He holds out to us today. Tomorrow I’ll change. Tomorrow I’ll slow down. Tomorrow I’ll choose what is right. It’s a common refrain, isn’t it? We promise ourselves that tomorrow we’ll live differently, enjoy deeply, or make the right choice.
But that’s not how time works. Time is always in the present. Today. Right now. This day’s time is a finite gift with infinite possibility because of limitless grace. The promise of I’ll do it tomorrow is always elusive because the only real choice for how we use our time is right now.
If I ever move away from this city I call home, it would be so sad to look back and see a pattern of missed opportunities and wasted time. I may never move from Toronto, but I will surely move on from this life to the next. I want to live on this earth—this day—as though I’m a tourist passing through town.
What does that mean, though? What ways should I start living life as though I won’t live here forever? What ways should I better use the finite time I’ve been given?
Should I read to my children more? Should I be on Facebook less? Should I call my Dad and Mom more often? Should I spend less time online and more time communing with my Creator? Should I rest earlier each night and rise earlier each morning? Should I pray longer and read God’s word more? Should I spend less time serving myself and more time serving others? Should I go to the ballet with my little sister again soon?
Though simplistic, in some ways our lives can be reduced to fractions of time that, when pieced together, create the whole. Right living is often not about creating new categories or radically changing everything, but about changing the ratio—changing certain things from less to more and other things from more to less.
It’s a timeless lament, these thoughts about how quickly time passes and how to use the time we’re given. But it’s pure grace when we feel how finite it all is because sometimes it’s only then, only when we feel time quietly passing by, that we start living life in light of eternity.
Because really, we’re all just visitors passing through.