When I was in elementary school, I remember so clearly dreaming about being in middle school: about what it would be like to have my own locker and what pictures and Teen Bop cutouts I would sneak in there. My private school teachers would be quick to confiscate and punish any visible heartthrobs taped up inside, but my friends and I had plans to be elusive and come on, was J.T.T. not worth that risk in 1997? My eleven-year old self could hardly imagine anything better than my own combination lock and the décor of my choosing and I thought “seventh grade, yes, seventh grade will be the year it’s really good.”
And seventh grade came and went and like many unsure-but-faking-it freshmen, I went in to high school dressed in my best with a little green Clinique eye make-up to accessorize. I watched in awe as the juniors and seniors held hands with their boyfriends and donned their car keys at lunch as they headed off campus or home for the day. “What would it be like to have a boyfriend and a car?!” I wondered on the daily. I had a significant case of acne and two baby teeth that held on until I was fourteen before they were finally pulled, so the boyfriend would have to wait a few years, but I still spent many a passing periods daydreaming about the possibilities of my social status and thought, “senior year, yes, senior year will be the year that it’s really good.”
And senior year came and went, with both a car—that I loved for fourteen years until a broken engine forced me to trade it in— and a boyfriend—that I thought-I-loved for fourteen months until a broken heart taught us both a valuable lesson in giving too much of yourself away too early. But with my sights set clearly on the warm desert of Arizona and a campus bigger and bursting with more energy than my little mind could handle, college became the next stop on my list of elusive check points. “I’ll finally learn how to do my hair and wear make-up! I’ll meet my future husband! I’ll be an All-American soccer player! College, yes, college will be the years that it’s really good.”
And my college years came and went, without a doubt some of the richest of my life, but I still didn’t know how to do my makeup like the sorority girls (lofty goal, I know, but I sure envied them strolling down Palm Walk in the center of campus), I never met the guy, and a dozen knee surgeries ended my soccer career far earlier than I was ready.
I think it’s clear where this is all going.
My life has always been a what’s next kind of life. The bright lights of college faded and I longed for graduate school to find more. Then many of my friends started getting married and a few started having babies and all of a sudden an invisible timer got switched on in my mind, one that not only anticipated the next season of life but rushed it. “Marriage, children, a home, yes, when I have those things, then that’s when it will be really good.”
And “those years” are where I find myself today, and they are really good. But this tendency to look ahead and not around is still a frequent visitor I entertain, wondering what it will be like when my body will be mine again, when my time will be a little more free, when my home will be a little less of a disaster, when our finances won’t be quite so tight. I look ahead and have a dangerous inclination to think “yes, those will be the years that it’s really good.”
Here is the problem I am finding: when I say “those will be the years that it’s really good,” I am not even sure what it is. What exactly is going to be really good? My social status, my makeup, my life? When I look back on all of those years I can see that I eventually got— in some way, shape, or form—everything I ever wanted. The soccer career did not shape out the way I planned, marriage is very different than planning a wedding, and being a mom has brought challenges I never even dreamed of undertaking. But almost all of what I looked forward to is now right in front of me. (I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know I even have a little bit of a clue about makeup, because Jesus loves me and sent friends to intervene on the ten-year run the green Clinique was making.)
So why on earth am I still looking forward?
I think it can only be because I have bought the lie today is not enough.
And that is what I know has to change. It, whatever it is, does not exist just beyond the grasp of what I’ve been given. This past year has truly taught me that the thing I am really longing for is heaven, and I will not ever find that here on earth. But the only thing that can satisfy our hearts until then is the pursuit of God’s glory, and I can most certainly find that today in all that I do: in the ways that I speak, in the posture of my heart, and in the delight I take in my actual life. Today is my good life.
So that is what this year is about for me: today. Beautiful today, with whatever it brings. This is the year I will stop seeing today as a placeholder for tomorrow, or next year, or when my kids can put their own shoes on or, God-willing, when my son might speak more. I have dreams about what I hope to build with all of my ‘todays’ and what I pray might happen in one of my coming ‘tomorrows’, but I cannot continue to hold these things at the expense of living my ‘todays,’ because I’m missing it, I’m missing the good life I’ve already been given. Today is what we have, and today has all we need to accomplish the purpose we were created for: glory. Not ours, but His.
So here is to today, this day, to the breathing and writing and loving and holding and giving we will do today. Lord, would you make it all worthy of the honor that will be all yours, someday.
"Above all, the great God with approval or disapproval beholds the transactions of this day; he sees what motives govern you and will proclaim them before the assembled universe. Oh solemn and affecting thought! The work before you is great and requires great searching of the heart, great self-diffidence and self-abasement. How necessary that you feel your dependence on God; you cannot perform any part of your work without his help. Under a sense of weakness go to Him for help...
Although the work is too great for you, yet let such considerations as these revive your desponding heart. Because the cause is good, better than life, you may well give up all for it... The campaign is short; the reward is great, and being found faithful, you will receive a crown of glory that fades not away." -Lemuel Haynes, 1818