Summary: Our days are like pearls strung together on a thread. One event triggers another but we can’t foresee what’s to come. Not so for God. God dwells in eternity. He exists in the past and in the present and in the future … all at the same moment.
What is truly the one thing that money can’t buy? It’s time! Nobody … and do mean NOBODY … not even Donald Trump or Bill Gates or George Soros or Oprah Winfrey or Warren Buffet or Mark Zuckerberg can buy themselves a single second of time … as Steve Jobs found out on October 5th, 2011. His $8.3 billion bought him a pretty good life here. He could buy pretty much anything he wanted except … time.
But what if?
What if you could buy more time? What would you give for one more month or one more year when your time was up? What would you give if you could live forever … for all eternity? If you never had to face the uncertainty of death?
This is the central theme of Natalie Babbitt’s 1975 novel “Tuck Everlasting.” The main character is a young girl by the name of Winnie Foster. She comes from a well-bred, wealthy, respected family. She dresses in the finest clothes and is afforded every opportunity. But her affluent lifestyle comes at a price. Her days are planned out for her … she’s not allowed to run free or play as the other children do … so one day she escapes and goes exploring in the woods surrounding her family home. It is then that she encounters the “Tucks” … a close-knit family with a mysterious past.
The mystery is that the Tucks have found a spring at the base of an old oak tree that has a curious property. Anyone who drinks of its waters will become immortal. You stay at whatever age you are when you drink from it. The parents were in their mid-forties when they drank from the spring … and will stay in the mid-forties forever. The oldest son, Miles, is in his mid-twenties and will stay in his mid-twenties forever. The youngest son … Jesse … is 104 years old … but will be biologically 17 years old forever.
Of course, Jesse and Winnie fall in love and Jesse wants Winnie to drink the water so that they can be 17 together forever. But before she drinks the water, the father … Angus Tuck … takes her out in a boat in the middle of the river. “Look around you,” he tells her. “[This river, these woods] are teaming with life. It’s flowers and trees and frogs. It’s all part of the wheel. It’s always changing, always growing … like you, Winnie. You were once a child … now you’re about to become a woman. One day you’ll grow up and you’ll do something important. You have children, maybe … and then one day you’ll go out … just like the flame of a candle. You’ll make way for new life. That’s a certainty … that’s the natural way of things.
“And then there’s us,” he sighs. “What we Tucks have you can’t call it living. We just … are. We’re like rocks struck at the side of a stream. Do you want to say stuck at the side of a stream?” he asks her. “Do you want to stay stuck as you are … right now … forever? I just want to make you understand that you can’t have living without dying. Don’t be afraid of death, Winnie … be afraid of the unlived life.”
As one reviewer put it: “Babbitt’s book explores the concept of immortality … which might not be as desirable as it appears to be.” From Babbitt’s point of view, immortality or eternity is like rocks stuck at the side of a stream. That’s a poignant image … rocks sitting by a stream unchanged and unmoved by time as it flows by them. “For some, time passes slowly,” Babbitt writes. “An hour can seem an eternity. For others, there can never be enough. For the Tucks, it didn’t exist.”
Here’s the amazing thing about time. We can’t see it or touch it … yet it flows … it moves. Yesterday flows into today … today flows into tomorrow … always flowing … always moving in one direction … forward … never backwards … which tells us what? That time … like a river …has a beginning … a source. Time moves in a certain direction. For many, like Babbitt, it moves towards some dark, mysterious, unknown goal. All the Tucks can do is sit on the banks of time and watch as it sweeps people and events past them … towards a destination the Tucks will never reach … an end or a conclusion they will never get to experience.
Given the way that Babbitt describes it, immortality doesn’t sound very desirable, does it? In the end, Winnie decides not to drink the water but to live life to the fullest in the time that she has. For me, Babbitt doesn’t touch on the true tragedy of the Tuck family. As the Apostle Paul so beautifully and succinctly points out, to be present in the body is to be what? Absent from the Lord. The Tuck family is trapped in their bodies forever … forever they are trapped here on earth. As I said earlier, time flows in a very specific direction. It flows from its source … God … and it carries us to a very definite destination.