The first time I experienced the Déjà vu interruption, I spent much of my day feeling a particularly persistent restlessness. The kind of restlessness that comes with a profound, invasive sense of boredom. Something I have begun to call the Same-Old, Same-Old disease. I had spent my day like every day before it over the previous same-old, same-old year: wake up, eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat.
That day — it was a late summer evening — taking the garbage cans to the street, I saw myself trundling the can just a few steps ahead of me. There I was, last week, walking the same path with the same can, the same setting sun, the same smells of summer, setting it in the same old place. It felt like I had just set the can there a moment ago. My mind said, “That was last Thursday!” but my eyes and knower saw it otherwise. I watched as I set the can down and walked back up the driveway, right past where I stood. The other me didn’t even acknowledge my presence.
“What’s going on here!?” My knower asked. “Is this some kind of weird version of a Déjà vu?”
Later that night, I had the Déjà vu happen again; I was getting ready for bed, still wondering what I had experienced on the driveway. After brushing my teeth, I walked into my room and was already asleep there. Sleeping in my same-old same-old bed at the tail end of my day’s rut. I could feel the approach. Something was coming. Standing in my room, in my undies, painfully desiring to be under the covers, blissfully asleep, I realized something basic had changed. Something had shifted. It was my room, but it wasn’t; it was different. He was me in the rut!
My sleepiness pushed me into bed, determined to ignore what I was experiencing. Unsuccessfully, my mind persisted in attempting to work its way around what I had just encountered, but sleep gratefully slammed the door on it.
The morning came, and the rut began. Typical breakfast, Email, dressed for the office, garage door up, out into the sunshine, rut running straight and true. I backed down the driveway into the world, blissfully forgetting last night.
The first one I noticed came at me in an approaching car. A young mother returning from her workout, iPhone in hand, heading home to gather the kids for school. I glanced over at her as she passed, and next to her face, there was an hourglass. I only caught a glimpse, but it was a generic-looking hourglass with brass fittings and bright white sand. Then she passed me. I tried to turn to look, but she disappeared up the road into the subdivision. I saw the hourglasses around the heads of many people I saw when I got to the office. The hourglasses were hard to catch as cars flashed by in the opposite lane. However, I was still able to distinguish the shape through the windshields. Fully engaged by what I was experiencing, I got out of my car at the office and stood there watching the cars file past me into the parking lot. Almost every car had an hourglass!
Eventually, I made it into my office and attempted to restart my rut with no success. I was well and completely undone. And when one of my coworkers walked past my office, I could see the hourglass in detail. In relation to his head, it was about a quarter the size. It was gorgeous! It looked like crystal and highly polished bronze. The workmanship was exquisite, like a finely made sextant, telescope, or timepiece. The sand itself had a brilliant, gleaming platinum quality! The hourglass seemed like a ghostly appendage protruding into time. Maybe the hourglass was time itself. “Does time have a personality?” I thought.
As I sat in my leather chair, waiting for my computer to boot, my mind began to toy with all the suggestions that popped like kernels of corn in that internal popcorn popper of possibilities. I think I am like any other curious guy that encounters the supernatural. There is an excitement that comes with it. A sense of importance that attends the advent of the supernatural into the life of the beholder. After all, I must be important in some way to be blessed to witness this. Right?
But then my analytical side spoke up. “Yeah, it is supernatural and way cool! But what does it mean?”
I imagined my impulsive side answering. “Mean? Who cares what it means? That is the Hourglass of Destiny! It’s kind of like getting to witness angels interacting with the world!”
Then the analytic one, true to his name, points out, “Yeah, very cool! But you didn’t answer my question. What does it mean? Why can we see that thing? Interacting with the supernatural in this world always has a purpose. So, Mr. Impulsive, what does it mean?”
I got up from my chair and stood to observe my friend across the hall. There it was, hovering just above and to the right of his head. And I could hear it! I could hear the sand falling! The sand glittered and shone as it fell into the bottom chamber of the glass. The top half was almost empty! My heart wanted to break as I came to a frightening conclusion about what the hourglass must represent. I instantly knew the answer to Mr. Analytical’s question about its meaning. I was watching destiny ticking away in the lives of my co-workers.
But then I saw another Déjà vu. I turned to walk back to my desk, and there I sat. And I could see the hourglass hovering over my head. That version of me was happily pounding away at some email he, I, sent sometime in the; whenever? This me was blissfully unaware of what was happening to the real me. But which was the real me? My attention switched from the other me to the hourglass hanging near my head. It was almost half full. “Wow! Mine’s almost full!” I thought to myself.
As I stood there, I watched as I walked right through me, walked over, and sat in my chair, which I already occupied. Then, the next me, and the next me, in progression, began to file in and start typing. “What is going on here?” I asked myself. No answer.
I spent the rest of that day watching a progression of myself — hundreds of them — each with their hourglasses at various stages of fullness — walk the same-old, same-old rut. As I watched, I noticed one thing. The hourglass was different in each of the versions of me walking past. Some of them had full hourglasses, and some were dangerously low. Were these all different timelines? Which was the real me? Are they all the same me? Most importantly, why are the hourglasses different, and do I have a choice of which me to be?
Eventually, the day wore down to the end of work, and I watched as a streaming long line of me walked out, got in the car, and drove the short distance home. I climbed in the back of my car, being driven by one of the iterations of myself, who didn’t seem to notice when I opened the back door and sat down — and hitched a ride back home. As we drove, I looked around at the world outside the car and noticed everything was just slightly off. The shadows of the trees moved around the tree’s base like the hands of a clock, ticking away the seconds, counting down to the end. Cars streamed by in multiple iterations, forming a psychedelic trail of vertigo-inducing images in my brain. Those innocently walking on the sidewalk were followed by their own group of selves, like a mother duck and her ducklings.
When we parked in the garage, I climbed out of the car and watched as each iteration of me merged with the previous one. In every case, I/he opened the door the same way, stepped out into the garage the same way, and reached into the back to grab my briefcase the same way. The only difference was the amount of sand in the hourglass. Then, I realized that the sound was also different in each instance. The sound of the sand running into the bottom of the hourglass was louder and faster in the hourglasses with lower amounts of sand on the top than those with the most sand, as if the sand was reaching a crescendo!
And, as I followed the last iteration of me to get out of the car into the house, the sound of all those iteration’s hourglass sands sounded like a rushing wind. It was getting louder and louder.
That is when I noticed that I wasn’t alone in the room. My wife, I knew, was in our bedroom. But, standing in the kitchen holding an hourglass stood a huge glowing person. Well, not so much as glowing as he was outlined with an aurora, as if a mighty arc light backlighted him. He was almost as tall as the ceiling and had flowing red hair held at his forehead with a silver torc. His face was brilliant and difficult to focus on. But the immense arms and chest were what I noticed right away. He wore a silvery 3-D BDU (Battle Dress Uniform), which amplified his size. The sword at his side was taller than I was. He was obviously waiting for me, the cognitive version of my personal iterations.
I walked into the kitchen and watched while the man kept flipping the hourglass around. He was whistling a tune that seemed to come simultaneously from everywhere in the room. Then he looked at me with eyes that glittered and shone with that same platinum light of the hourglass that emphasized the beauty of his eyes and said, “I am certain that we have your attention at this point. It’s not often that I get to give someone a choice of destinies.” The man flipped the hourglass again. “Perhaps you noticed today that there are many different versions of your life echoing through time,” he said, flipping the hourglass again. “Each of those destinies is like the grains of sand in this hourglass…your hourglass. And, by the way, these aren’t Deja-Vus; they are called Deja Reve’s. Those are visions of your future self, not your past self.”
I focused on the grains in the hourglass. Each grain stood out as an individual speck. But they were not just sitting there waiting to fall through the hole into the bottom. Each time the man flipped the hourglass, the grains jumped and danced inside the hourglass glass. Each one was a different color and — in fact — looked alive and individual, bouncing off the glass and testing the boundaries. These grains of sand were alive.
The man held out the hourglass and asked, “Would you like to hold it?”
I reached out, took the hourglass from the man, and drew it up toward my face to look more closely. The sand wasn’t moving. It seemed to be on “Pause”. “Why is it not moving?” I asked, “It was just moving; why’s it just sitting there?”
“It is waiting for your decision,” he said as he took the hourglass back, his hand dwarfing the hourglass. “This is where you make your choice. In the ranks of the angels, this is what we call the Scrooge adventure. If this were a ride at the carnival? I doubt that many would want to ride it. After all, it is a momentous decision to make. But you are one of those who have come to our attention and have arrived at the crossroads of momentum versus stagnation. The dilemma of the rut of life. Some people are fine with the comfort of the rut. A life of sameness is where you never have to worry about what’s coming next. They never realize that the fear of the unknown rules life. The fear of having an adventure that turns out to be a disappointment or a momentous joy! Some people would rather build their nest and stay comfortably the same rather than have a chance to experience the adventure of what God has for them. So that’s the choice your prayers have brought you this day.” The light behind the eyes — now prominent — of the angel began to increase in intensity.
I thought to myself, “Prayers? I don’t think I could remember the last time I prayed. Usually, prayer happens at dinner and in emergencies. Not for something like this. But I do know I wouldn’t want to stagnate in life. I always wanted to live life to the fullest. I just never thought too much about God. I just always assumed He was there. I leave Him alone, and He leaves me alone.”
The angel continued, “You can choose to continue living your life the same-old, same-old way you have been, and I will give you a choice of one of the endless versions of your life that you have seen today. Each of those versions will look the same except for one difference. The hourglasses all have different amounts of sand remaining. Each comes with its unique version of your life. But be careful. The ones with the most sand remaining may not be what you expect from life.” The angel turned the hourglass over again, causing the grains to become agitated. “Or you can accept the version where God designed the destiny, and not know how much time remains in the hourglass. In that version, you agree to accept God’s leadership in shaping the future and His plan for your life and the lives of your family.”
I stood in the middle of the kitchen, and my mind froze. “What a crapshoot! How am I supposed to know which of those Deja-Vus and Deja Reves to pick? That’s impossible!”
I thought that maybe it wasn’t so much a realistic choice to be made. Perhaps it’s merely a test to see how much I trust my ability to forge ahead despite whatever the future has in store. But, still, I couldn’t bring myself to choose one of the hourglasses that began slowly moving past me as if they were on a conveyor belt. Each hourglass was different. They were all beautiful and intricate, and none were the same. Big ones, tiny ones, very, very loud ones, and a few that were hard to look at because they rivaled the sun in their brightness. I wanted to vomit. There’s just no way to know what the future holds, and I realized I had no idea if I would successfully survive any of those destinies.
The angel was quiet through my tortured attempt to decide, and he just kept whistling that same catchy tune. Eventually, the Angel smiled, chuckled, and said, “I am allowed to give you one hint to help you make your decision.”
The angel leaned over — as if he was talking to a child — to whisper into my ear, “There is no hourglass in God’s version of your life. Only Jesus.”
It wasn’t a difficult decision.
I stood in the kitchen with my briefcase in one hand and a bottle of ice-cold beer — labeled “Valhalla Golden Ale” — in the other. I looked closely, and the bubbles in the open bottle looked strangely like the grains of sand in the hourglass I had just held. Then I heard a gentle chuckle and a faint whisper, “Enjoy. See you later…”