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Time Has Come

By May 22, 2015 3 Comments

This end of the school year brings extra tumult for me, beyond the usual press of grading, farewell receptions, putting the books away, organizing the notes for next time, and the whole nine yards. Can’t talk about the details yet, but to repeat after the sacred writer, I’ve been beset with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without.

That’s probably a leftover from the Billy Graham biography discussion I attended a month ago. (It’s a line from “Just as I Am,” and if you needed me to tell you that, you need to get your evangelical credentials in order.) But it’s just one of the lyrics that’s been spinning around in my head. They pop up in no order and leave the same way, twisting all around each other in between. The following is what they look like, gentle reader. Take the challenge and see if you can sort them out. Sources will be revealed a week hence in the Comments section of this blog. And, yes, I’ve made your job harder by turning poetry into prose. Cuz that’s the way it feels.

Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more. Put me in on the firmest side, so I shall never fall; for we must ride to the Judgment, and it’s partly down hill. I’ve lived a life that’s full, I traveled each and every highway. Time is on my side, yes it is. The letter that you wrote me made me stop and wonder why, but I guess you felt like you had to set things right. You’re out of touch, my baby, my poor discarded baby, I said baby, baby, baby, you’re out of time.

Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more. I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. But never I mind the bridges, and never I mind the sea; held fast in everlasting race by my own choice and Thee. Don’t care if you do ’cause it’s understood, you ain’t got no money, you ain’t no good. Yes, you are left out, out of there without a doubt, ‘cause baby, baby, baby, you’re out of time.

As virtuous men pass mildly away, and whisper to their souls to go, Whilst some of their sad friends do say, the breath goes now, and some say, no. Just remember this, my girl, when you look up in the sky, you can see the stars and still not see the light. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption. Surely someday I’ll look up and see the morning sun without another lonely night behind me. Then I’ll know I’m over you and all my cryin’s done, no more hurtin’ memories can find me.

Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. You’re obsolete my baby, my poor old-fashioned baby, I said baby, baby, baby you’re out of time. I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried, I’ve had my fill, my share of losing. Now baby, listen baby, don’t ya treat me this-a way ‘cause I’ll be back on my feet some day. Time time time is on my side, yes it is. And I’m already gone.

And now as tears subside I find it all so amusing. So let us melt, and make no noise, no tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move; ’twere profanation of our joys to tell the laity our love. Well, I guess if you say so I’d have to pack my things and go. Now you always say that you want to be free, but you’ll come running back, you’ll come running back, you’ll come running back to me. Good-by to the life I used to live, and the world I used to know; and kiss the hills for me, just once; now I am ready to go!

Well I know it wasn’t you who held me down. Heaven knows it wasn’t you who set me free. For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. You are all left out, out of there without a doubt, to say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels. ‘Cause baby, baby, baby, you’re out of time. So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key. Oh, time is on my side, yes it is. But I’m already gone.

James Bratt

James Bratt is professor of history emeritus at Calvin College, specializing in American religious history and especially the connections between religion and politics. Starting in Fall 2016 he took a break from blogging on The Twelve to teach in China and on the Semester at Sea, which venues afforded him some welcome distance from the USA’s descent into its current mortal illness. But now he’s back in the States, looking for hope. His most recent book (which he edited and completed for the late John Woolverton) is  “A Christian and a Democrat”: Religion in the Life and Leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


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