Encircled by God's love

Originally Appeared in : 9801-1/4/18

I once sang this Joni Mitchell song to my children at bedtime. I sing it now to my grandchildren who know it well because their mom also sings it to them. Their bedtime song about time has become in my life what its title describes, a circle game. The circle has extended to my daughter’s family and looped back from her own childhood to encircle the lives of her own children. 


A New Year has arrived. As I age, time speeds up, and the seasons of my life are spinning around and around. And while I can’t return to my earlier years, I can look behind at them through my grandchildren. And from this perspective, I see the early years differently, and yet as they were. Those years with a young family were chaotic, exhausting and abundant with grace. The abundance was breath-taking when I was aware of it, and yet it was hard to slow down long enough to be aware. 


Attending Mass weekly with my small children was one time when I was able to notice the abundance. (Not every week, of course, but often enough that I remember.) I recalled this experience of slowing down at Mass because I saw it reflected in my daughter’s family when they recently attended Christmas Eve Mass with me. 


With three young children, ages 5 and under, my daughter had to leave her seat during Mass when the youngest, an active toddler, became restless. So as not to disturb those around us, she took him to the gathering space. But my son-in-law stayed behind with the two older children, who were able to sit quietly through the Mass. My daughter and toddler grandson returned in time for communion. 


And in those quiet moments, in the midst of ritual, both ancient and new, I could breathe in the abundance of God’s goodness and love. I remembered the love of my young family from decades ago, and I saw it recreated, renewed, in the young family sitting next to me. I realized then, without a doubt, I have lost nothing over the years. I have only gained love. 


With this perspective, I do not view time passing as sand through an hourglass. The measurement of an hourglass works only for those who have never transcended time in this life. God’s time isn’t linear. It isn’t finite. Time’s movement is not like turning the pages on a calendar. It’s not like a ticking timepiece or a line moving from point A to point B. 


In God’s time, the past and present and future exist simultaneously. Thus, I am right now who I was and who I will be. The abundant love I have known, I still know, and I will always know. As I age, I lose nothing permanently. I retain it all because what God gave me in the past, God continues to give me and will always give me ­— in this life and the next. In fact, not only do I retain what I have, but God’s love becomes more abundant as more people enter my life over the years. 


Sometimes this awareness is clear to me, as it was when I was at Mass on Christmas Eve. But when I forget who I am and who God is, I become afraid. I fear loss and deterioration and death. I fear that all will end in darkness and scarcity, not light and abundance. Then time is not a circle; it’s a one-way dead-end street. 


As I enter this new year, assuming my life expectancy is average, I have dramatically fewer years ahead than behind. Thus, the only New Year’s resolution worth making is to remain aware of the abundant and eternal nature of God’s time. When my earthly life has ended, I will not lack anything. As I am now, and as I have always been, I shall be encircled by God’s love. 


Mary Hood Hart is a freelance writer and educator living in Pittsboro, NC. She can be reached at

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