By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published August 14, 2023
I was walking along the shore with my cousin’s husband and his sister on an ordinary evening, when something extraordinary happened. I looked down at the sand and saw something lying on its back, and said, “Oh, no, a baby turtle and it’s dead!” But then Chuck touched it lightly and the little fellow moved. At that instant, the three of us entered a different realm of time, as suddenly our entire focus was centered on saving this helpless creature. Chuck picked the turtle up and put him in the surf, where he started swimming, but the waves kept bringing him back to shore.
I turned to Kathleen and pleaded: “Would you take him farther out into the ocean?” Although she was fully dressed, she didn’t hesitate. She handed me her purse, phone and eyeglasses, then picked up the turtle and walked into the ocean, ignoring the fact that the waves were drenching her. Beyond the sandbar, she released him and then waded back to shore. “He swam away into deeper water,” she said joyfully. I thanked her profusely and added: “I’ll never forget this moment.”
In “Interior Freedom,” Father Jacques Philippe writes about two different kinds of time. Head time is psychological, which means we divide it into hours and minutes, and it seems there is never enough. We sometimes find ourselves lost in past events or immersed in future plans.
Heart time is given to us by God, and it exists in moments of grace, when we are fully immersed in the present moment. To live in God’s time, we must be ready to detach ourselves from our own plans. Father Philippe writes, “We must be ready to do in an instant just what we hadn’t expected, to live in total self-abandonment, with no other concerns than doing God’s will and being fully available to people and events.” In that moment of grace, when we discovered the turtle was alive, all our energies were centered on getting him into the sea. We forgot about everything else in the world, as we entered the wondrous realm of God’s time.
That turtle probably would have died had we not taken that walk and discovered him. This reminds me of how often we pass by other people without really seeing them. We may be swimming in a sea of our own worries, plans and projects. We hear the clock ticking in the back of our mind, even as we play with a child. We’re checking texts on the phone, even as we talk with a friend.
On an ordinary day long ago, Jesus climbed a mountain with his friends, who suddenly saw him completely changed, ablaze with divine light, and talking with Moses and Elijah. They fell to the ground when they heard God’s voice: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
It would be easy to conclude we must do something extraordinary to encounter the divine, but God hides in the heart of every ordinary person. Mother Teresa said, “Every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is the only person in the world for me at that moment.”
Sometimes, we meet someone who needs to be set free from worries and fears. They may be trapped in a life of sorrow, poverty or illness. We can look into their eyes and pray to see into their heart. We can also pray to give ourselves fully to them, as we enter the realm of God’s time, and discover the way to rescue them.
Lorraine is the author of eight books, including “The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey” and church mysteries, “Death in the Choir,” “Death of a Liturgist” and “Death Dons a Mask.” Artwork is a painting by her late husband, Jef (www.jefmurray.com. Her email address is email@example.com.