“If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you” Recorded: 1972 Released: 1973 “Time In A Bottle” Written and Recorded by: Jim Croce
Have you ever spent time in a bottle? (Maybe that’s for another post someday.)
I have fond memories of performing this stirring song in the late 1970’s as a duo with a fellow musician. It’s really a wonderful premise, don’t ya think? Maybe here is a way to save time in a bottle. How about this?
Jim Croce has left us with somewhat of a mystery here. The lyric itself was written at a happy time in the life of Croce. In 1970 he and his wife had just discovered they were going to have a baby when he put pen to paper, but didn’t produce the song for two more years. Simultaneously there is a blueness about the lyric, accompanied by a smattering of minor chords. In fact, if you read all the verses you will hover in a hazy fog of wanting, lacking, with a tint of cost. In Crose’s case, my theory is he was on the road with gig dates, away from his pregnant wife. Not too vastly different from the overtones of the idea KISS brought us with the rock ballad, “Beth” from 1976. The composers of both songs seem to be relationally available to their loved ones, and yet not — leaving a sense of sadness, of loss, with a shadow of emptiness.
There is a powerful scene in the 1998 WWII movie, Saving Private Ryan. It’s a haunting scene, shot without audible dialogue. Spielberg’s masterful direction begins with Mrs. Ryan, Private James Ryan’s mother, busy in her farmhouse kitchen, donning her well-worn apron. Out the kitchen window a telegram messenger drives up the dusty country road, stopping in front of her house. Spielberg’s frame follows her to the front screen door which she opens. The camera angle is positioned from behind her, as if the viewer is a member of the household. (A brilliant choice by Spielberg.) She steps out the threshold to greet the messanger. The telegram is handed to her. An unanticipated intense moment passes as she stands frozen in time. Suddenly, her knees buckle as she falls faint to the porch floor as she’s informed of the deaths of three of her sons, all killed in combat. Only one son remained alive, serving on the battlefield somewhere in France, her son James.
No other film moves me so like Saving Private Ryan. Much of it is hard to watch as it was produced to place the viewer there in the thick of battle alongside the U.S. warriors in efforts to stop Hitler. I recommend a showing for Veteran’s Day Week. (Not for younger kids.)
The one and only scene with Mrs. Ryan is etched in my head. It’s easy to imagine how just seconds prior to the telegram, she was happy, focused on the task at hand, proud and comfortable with a quiver full of valiant sons serving overseas in difficult times. In those moments, I can understand why she would want to save that time in a bottle, to be poured out in measure at will, to once again revel in her family. As I watch, knowing what’s coming, I too hold her sense of quiet joy all the way up until the tragic news breaks. When she collapses, I shed tears of grief for her every single time.
“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” ~ C. S. Lewis
The news alert popped up on my television screen a couple of days ago. I sat in my chair stunned as it was reported how three American mothers, along with six of their children, were mercilessly gunned down and burned on a road in northern Mexico, just south of the Arizona border. Reports from surviving children, who escaped the scene, revealed mothers shielding their young, begging the attackers not to shoot. Members of the Mexican cartel unloaded their weapons of war on the innocent, along with burning the bodies, some children still alive in the flames. In an instant, I was enraged, followed by heartbreaking pain, followed by immense grief. All within a minute. “If words could make wishes come true…” – I believe the three moms would’ve wanted back the time of peace they had just prior to the attack.
Isn’t that the way grief goes? One moment in time there is happiness, joy, or even the mundane, the ordinary. Suddenly, it can be remembered no more when tragedy strikes rolling over heart and mind like a steamroller over hot tar. We reach back for it all if possible. If we had time in a bottle, in our onslaught of misery and mourning, we could uncork the reserve just to sample out some of what was once there before disruption, before loss, before pain. The word “before” is massive.
When you come across some unwise lecturer spouting out how the enlightened person of faith is care-free, without tears, only living the successful, prosperous life, I urgently suggest you keep searching for the authentic, the truthful. Jesus Himself made this perfectly clear concerning the above. “I have spoken these things to you so that you shall have peace in me. You shall have suffering in the world, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English) Several times, Jesus displayed His own hardships, struggles, sorrow, pain, and even tears. It was written down on scrolls so we would know He understands what it’s like to live in a painful, sunken, fallen world. Isaiah’s prophecy was clear. We would recognize Messiah by certain red flags He would exhibit in His life, in His character. – “…a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…” – – Isaiah 53:3 (KJV)
Capturing the good times, the beautiful moments in life, is a terrific thing, even a healthy thing to do. When they come, store them away in a special place only accessible to you, maybe in the bottle of the heart. Fill it up, cork it as the days of memorable peace arrive.
As for Mrs. Ryan, along with an American family, with duel citizenship in Mexico can attest, times of quaking will come to a fault-line near you. Whether it be financial, physical, mental, or relational, shatterings will come in life. When they do, you might have a bottle of tremendous days reserved for reflection. And as the tears fall, retrieve this passage from your bottle of times:
“You have kept record of my days of wandering. You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them.” – Psalm 56:8 (Contemporary English Version) * Many versions add: “…Are they not in your book?”
Grief, grief held to, can overwhelm the vibrant mind, poison the hopeful spirit, destroy physical health, divert from a career, and breakdown the life of the body. We MUST grieve, for there IS a time for it. Wisdom says to embrace it as it comes, bidding it farewell before it spoils like moldy bread. You’re reading from one who suffers the failure of letting go.
When holding to the biblical promise with the invitation to “…toss ALL cares, ALL anxiety, loading-up on Him because He cares for you” – 1 Peter 5:7 (My paraphrase), one’s bottle will be filled with fuel for the race.
“For thus said the high and exalted One, Inhabiting eternity, and holy is His name: ‘In the high and holy place I dwell, And with the bruised and humble of spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of bruised ones.‘” – Isaiah 57:15 (Young’s Literal Translation)