Just Thinking About “Time in a Bottle”


“What is a grain of wheat?” Paul Tournier asks. “It contains a whole plant you cannot yet see. What is a silkworm? You cannot define it without seeing in advance all its metamorphosis. What is a child? You cannot describe him without thinking of the whole life of the man, with all its unknowns, for which he is preparing.”

As I first read those words years ago, I sat at my desk and examined the little Christmas present I had just received from my mother. It was a simple little thing—a small bottle with a glass stopper. Inside were ten or fifteen marbles. She’d tied a thin baby blue ribbon around the little bottle.

Once it was a vitamin bottle, but now it was becoming a very special paperweight. I remembered the marbles, every one. They were mine, or at least they had been.

The bottle? The bottle once sat on the small table by my aged maternal grandparents’ bed in the old house at Robert Lee, Texas. It had held just enough water to use to take a pill or to wet a dry throat.

Dr. Tournier writes of the metamorphosis, the transformation, we see when caterpillars are changed into butterflies and blonde-headed little boys into graying grandfathers. That little bottle is for me an appropriate symbol of the process. Nestled inside the glass bottle of the aged are the glass trinkets of childhood. Thus encapsulated by a marble-filled bottle is the whole spectrum of life from spring to winter, from youth to old age.

No one is immune to the metamorphosis wrought by time. With each tick of the clock every one of us is being transformed. Tournier is right. We see a small child and wonder what the adult will be like. We wonder about the many unknowns life holds for graduates walking across the stage. We each, no matter what our age, remember what we ourselves have been and ponder what we may yet become. The present flits into the past on the wings of a hyperactive hummingbird, and we are powerless to slow it down or grasp it into stillness. The future races to meet us with blinding speed, oppressed with such a low opinion of itself that it can’t wait to change its name to “The Past.”

But Christians needn’t be frightened of the frenetic future or paralyzed by the echoes of the past. We are all being changed, but God’s children know that the transformation can be filled with joy and hope. Our Creator promises to lovingly fill our lives with His life, continually re-creating us by Resurrection power, changing us “into Christ’s likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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