Monday, May 10, 2010


We sat at the steel table and waited for Jake to be allowed in. John, the pastor who wanted me to meet with Jake, was to my left. Jake was a patient in the mental health institution for the criminally insane and John thought I might be able to “breakthrough” with the patient even though no one else had been able to.

Jake came to the table, looked at me, then at John, then back at me and said, “What time is it? Who are you? Why are you here?”

“It’s okay, Jake,” John said. “I asked him here to maybe talk with you, if that’s all right with you.”

Jake looked at me. “What time is it?”

“About 9:30,” I said.

“No,” he said sharply. “What time is it?”

“Um, it’s morning?” I said hesitantly, not sure what he was really asking.

“NO!” he said even more emphatically, and becoming visibly agitated. “What. Time. Is it?” The visiting room guards became more watchful, as if ready to spring into action if necessary.

I was about to say, “Summer,” when I held back. I looked intently into his eyes, trying to imagine what was locked in his mind and what he was truly asking.

Perhaps a half-minute passed, although it felt a lot longer, before I said, “It’s now, Jake.”

He stared back at me, his eyes relaxed only slightly as did the rest of his body.

“It’s always now in here,” he said, tapping on his forehead. “It’s never yesterday. It’s never tomorrow. It’s never breakfast is over, or lunch is next. It’s only now. It’s always now.” He was still looking, staring into my eyes, as if trying to figure out how I knew his answer. He pointed to my head and asked, "What time do you have?"

"I have now, Jake," I said.

For the next half hour or so, we had a rather philosophical, if not esoteric, discussion about time. Eventually we worked into a rather simple discussion about his treatment.

We left at 11:30.

“In three years,” John said, “Jake has never had that kind of discussion. With anyone. Not me. Not his counselors or therapists. No one. How did you do it?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just tried to answer his question.”

“But how did you know what he was really asking?”

“I didn’t, really,” I said. “But I knew he wasn’t asking what the time was. He wanted to know what the time is. God gave me the answer and I merely repeated it.”

Every now and again I remember that experience. Not for the breakthrough that Jake had but for the answer.

Time is now.

Memories are for what has passed. Plans are for what lies ahead. But today? Today is for living now. It’s the only time you have.

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