If Tomorrow Never Comes

Faint not—fight on!  Tomorrow comes the song.

“I’ll just take this with me, okay?  There might be a poem in it I can use.” 

I looked over at the Lovely Lady as I headed toward the door earlier tonight, waving the thin volume in the air as I spoke.  The little book of popular poetry from the nineteenth century had come from her parent’s home (and possibly her grandparent’s before that), so I felt I needed her approval.

Smiling at me, she told me to take it.  She never expected anything less when she brought it home a while back. 

The little book of verse is lying open on my desk even now, along with three or four others.  I really didn’t think I would find anything spectacular in it. 

Poetry is just poetry.  Sometimes.

Men and women in the past did just as many of us do today, sitting and meditating on our days and nights—remembering that we haven’t accomplished what we intended—recalling some important lesson we don’t want to lose in the gray haze of our busy lives.  Dashing down words onto a page, we save the thoughts for another night, or another morning.  Line by line, the thoughts and words take shape, achieving a semblance of wisdom or wit—or not.

As I glanced through the little book tonight, my eyes fell on the concluding line of a poem by the man who penned the words to that great old hymn, This is My Father’s World.  The line is copied above, but I’ll repeat it here to save you the trouble of looking for it.

Faint not—fight on!  Tomorrow comes the song.

I froze in the act of flipping to the next page.  Then I reached for my phone.  Only a week ago, I saved a thought in my notes there, a thought that had arrested me one afternoon.  One afternoon—on one of those days.

You know the kind of day I mean.  The cares and troubles of the world already pressing down on you are joined by a mountain of tasks to be completed.  To add to it all, nothing is going as it should.  Nothing.  One failure after another—one disgruntled patron after another, lead to the terrifying feeling of drowning.

The words I wrote that afternoon are still there, where I saved them in black and white, and the fear returns.

There are days when I panic and wonder, how do I get to tomorrow from here? Click To Tweet

underwaterThere are days when I panic and wonder, how do I get to tomorrow from here?

The fear of drowning is real—the fear is—even if the danger is not. 

My mind wanders and I see an eight-year-old lad with short blond hair and brown skin crouched beside a swimming pool.  Wound up like a spring, he is watching the camp’s activity director closely.  The man holds a silver steel ring in his hand and then with a quick motion, releases it into the air to fall in the deep end of the pool.  Within a second, the boy is diving into the water, eight feet deep and well over his head. 

The idea is to retrieve the ring from the bottom of the pool more quickly than the other boys have achieved the task.  He is sure he can do better.  There is no fear at all in his mind—yet.

Dropping quickly, he heads for the spot he last sighted the target.  As he nears the bottom, his ears begin to pop; the water pressure at that depth is much higher than in the air above or even in the shallows of the other end.  No matter, he is still confident, but for some reason cannot see the ring.

His eyes have started burning in the chlorine-treated water and his ears are actually hurting a little now.  The boy finds himself a little disoriented, but looking above through squinted eyelids, determines where he is in relationship to the sides and the water’s surface, and continues feeling along the bottom of the concrete pool.  Then he feels it.

No.  Not the ring; He feels the fear

He is running out of oxygen in his lungs.  He had taken a huge breath prior to jumping in, but his discomfort has used up precious time and burned more air than he expected.  It is all he can do to persevere and grab the ring as his hand contacts it. 

No, it wasn’t the ring after all, but only the grill around the pool’s drain. 

Now panic really is gripping him, his heart pounding uncontrollably in his chest, but he won’t give up. 

There!  There it is!  He has it in his hand and heads to the surface.  But, in his panic, he forgets to push off on the bottom and is left to flail and kick his way up, eight long feet to the life-giving oxygen.

In his mind, he is drowning.  He can’t get there; the pressure in his lungs is too great.  He will have to exhale and breathe in before he reaches the surface.  It hurts too much!  He knows he will die, simply knows it!

Just as he exhales, the pressure exploding from his mouth and nose, his blond head emerges from the water.  Gasping the precious, life-giving oxygen into his lungs, he stabs his hand above his head in triumph—just as if he hadn’t given up all hope just seconds before—and shows the ring to the waiting group.

Two things I remember, fifty years along the road of life.  Two things.

The waiting group of swimmers wasn’t all that impressed.  No one congratulated me on persevering though the panic.  In fact, not one of my fellow campers ever admitted to feeling that same fear.  Not one.

Neither did I.  Never.  Until now.

The second thing?  I had to do it all again the very next day.  And the next day, and the next.

Life keeps coming at us.  Daily.  And, we either face it and go through, or we fail in our aspirations.  We persevere and push on, or we are overcome and give up.

I don’t want anyone to believe they are the only one who feels that fear.  The thing I’m sure of is there is someone close to me and to you right now who is feeling it.  Maybe you should ask the person next to you if they’ve ever felt the panic.  If they’re honest, they will remember a time.  They might even be going through it right this minute.

How about it?  Are your eyes burning?  Are your lungs bursting?  Is your heart beating so fast you think it may never recover?

Me too.

Hang in there. Today, we fight. Ah, but tomorrow? Tomorrow, we sing. Click To Tweet

Hang in there.  Today we fight.

Ah, but tomorrow?

Tomorrow, we sing.

 

 

 

 

Be strong!
It matters not how deep intrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day how long;
Faint not—fight on!  Tomorrow comes the song.
(From Be Strong by Maltbie Babcock ~ American hymn writer ~ 1858-1901)

 

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust.  I will not be afraid.
(Psalm 56:3,4 ~ NIV)

 

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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