“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” Einstein theorized that time is not absolute, and I recently read a Bible verse that said the same. The Psalmist David wrote, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” To the Lord, a thousand years goes by like nothing- a blink, a blade of grass, a vapor in the air. Like David, I’ve learned that perspective changes everything. I believe in the theory of relativity.
I still remember bits of the days of kindergarten. It was getting cold and my mother held my hand as I trotted down the hallways of Franklin with my big coat on. I hung my pink mittens in a cubby and listened to stories of Mr. M pulling macaroni out from the bottom shelf at the grocery store and having it all fall on top of him. The room was big and spacious, full of both wild adventure and peaceful naps. But when I peered into the once-familiar room years later, all I saw were childish books and worn toys, stuffed inside a small room with peeling paint. Size and color had changed with maturity.
In middle school, my family went to visit Yellowstone and its wonders beyond anything in a suburb of Chicago. I saw roaring waterfalls, hundreds of bison, lakes bluer than Crayola aquamarine, and huge sulphuric springs. I marveled in awe at how majestic nature could be. My brother took one sniff at the springs and said, “Who cut one?” Perhaps beauty was relative, too.
I walked into the lonely halls of high school without my mom and without my big coat on. Still, people reached out to me, especially one boy who would become my best friend. He was strong and outgoing, with a sharp wit and a soft heart. He brought me out of my shell to see the world in a whole new way. But one day he left for good- his parents shipped him off to military school, and rumors swirled of his serious trouble there. Surely humanity and goodness couldn’t be relative. During high school, I fell in love, and out of love, but what was love, even? It definitely wasn’t butterflies and valentines. How could two people see something they shared in two completely different ways?
So I guess I found my answer on the beach last summer at camp in Indiana. I was a counselor in training for two weeks at a 4th through 7th grade camp, and it was the second-to-last day, the fourth of July. We went to a counselor’s house to watch his backyard fireworks show, and I laid out a picnic blanket for us to watch the fireworks crackle and burst into dazzling shapes among the stars. It was then that I remembered the Bible verse- A thousand years is like one blink in Your eyes. Dull moments of our day drag on, while the precious seconds of things we want to keep fall right through our fingertips. Time is relative, as are humanity and beauty, appearance and love. In a moment when life seemed to pause, so did I. People I loved surrounded me as I watched each brilliant firecracker light up the night sky for miles while it lasted. Maybe we were here together for just an instant more, but that was enough.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.