The other day, I took a walk up the hill behind our house that leads to a pond. On the far side of the pond, there’s a stretch of woods that goes on for a while, and oftentimes, I’ll see a group of deer across the pond, walking around near the water’s edge.

As I was walking up the hill, I had the thought of deer in my mind, and I thought, “It’d sure be great to see some.” But, when I got to the top and looked out across the water, I only saw a stretch of woods. If you haven’t already predicted a “couldn’t see the forest for the trees” moment, here it comes.
I turned to walk down a trail, and just as I did, I heard the blowing sound that deer make when they are signaling an alarm. If you’ve ever heard it, you know it’s unmistakable. I looked up, and right were I had been looking, I saw five white tails turn and leap away across the hill. I’d looked right at them, but I’d never seen them.

* * *

There’s a song by the bluegrass band The Steeldrivers that’s called “Heaven Now”, and the chorus goes like this:

“I know my days are heaven sent

Lord knows I know not where they went

I shake my head and wonder how

I’ll ever get to Heaven now.”

Those words are as tragic as they are true. When I hear that song, I’m reminded of a thought that crops up in my mind almost on a daily basis: This life is made up of moments, and with each one that passes, I realize it’s a part of my life that I’ll never get back.

With that thought comes the reality that we as a people have gotten downright exceptional at filling—perhaps even squandering—our time. Heck, it’s our culture. I don’t like to generalize in my writing, but this is a topic where I feel like I can make an exception. Forgive me.

It seems that more often than not, our days are spent going from one time filler to the next, and I can’t help but feel like we’re losing something.

If you knew that the next moment you got to spend with someone you loved would be the last, would you act differently? I’m sure you’ve heard that question before. Of course, we would all try to do our best to savor that time. But what we overlook everyday is that while the moments we’re spending with those people may not be our last moments with them, they are the last time we will ever get to spend that particular moment with them. Perhaps another similar moment may come, but when one moment passes, it’s gone, and we cannot get it back.

The danger in this is that we seem to have gotten into the mindset that moments are interchangeable, and that one is as good as another. We also seem to do a good job of highlighting “defining” moments, while we undervalue all the other moments that come in between. I can vividly remember the moment when I knew for certain that I wanted to marry the woman who is now my wife, but it took all the “little” moments that came before to make that “defining” moment possible. 

Moments are no more interchangeable than memories are, or children, or close friends, and so on. Our lives are lived in these moments, and whether we like it or not, our lives are passing in these moments. Each moment that comes should be viewed as a defining one, for these moments define us—not merely the moments of gazing into the eyes of a loved one, or of reaching a great height, or of experiencing deep joy or sorrow, but also in walking from one room to another, or in opening your eyes in the morning, or in taking a breath. For without such attention and joyful expectation, the very visions we are hoping to see may be hiding in plain view, preparing to turn their white tails around and leap away, never to be seen in such a manner ever again.

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