These past two weeks have been very hard for my family. Last week, my sweet grandpa Bill went to be with the Lord. Besides my dad, he was the best man I knew. He loved me and my siblings more than I know. He lived a long, full, wonderful 85 years of life. Though his quality of life was not the fullest during these last few years, his passing still came somewhat unexpectedly. All the great grandparents I have lost, I lost when I was too young to know what was going on. My grandpa Bill is really the first personal loss I’ve experienced in my life. Though I have seen friends of friends, neighbors, and even people I went to high school with pass away, I’ve never lost anyone super close to me and have been at an age to really comprehend it all. Being this age, my grandpa’s passing not only deeply hurts because I lost my papa, it hurts because I see my mom who lost her dad, my grandma who lost her husband, and so on. And those are losses that I can only begin to comprehend. I am at an age where I understand the full weight and finality of one’s passing… so losing my grandpa, its been tough. And as it usually goes when someone passes away, you’re reminded of the fragility of life. That’s really got me thinking.
Then, last week I was babysitting my three-year-old niece. We were playing on the floor and out of nowhere, she says to me,
“I wanna be big.”
“Big…?” I said.
“I wanna be a gwone – up.” (She means “grown up” – but she can’t say her R’s yet… which is fine because it is literally thee cutest thing I’ve ever heard).
I asked. “Why do you wanna be a grown up?”
“Cause I wanna go to work.” she responds.
This short conversation with this witty toddler, in addition to my grandpa’s passing, really had me thinking. Don’t we all spend a good amount of life in this exact same mindset? Aren’t we all waiting in anticipation, excitement, and sometimes discontentment, for the next phase of our life? Don’t we all think that life will really begin once “that” one thing happens? I can distinctly remember the first time I felt this longing to be in the next phase of life…
Good ole’ sixth grade. At my school, sixth grade was the last year of elementary school; middle school / jr. high started in seventh grade. I remember wanting to be in middle school SO BAD because they had lockers. Yes. Lockers — that was the reason I was so excited to start middle school. Then, I got to middle school and it was awesome. I could hardly wait to be in eighth grade because eighth graders were the ones that could be on Praise Team — the worship band for our weekly chapels. I got to eighth grade and even got into Praise Team! But, oh boy — I could not WAIT to get to high school. I would finally be a HIGH SCHOOLER! Bigger lockers, way cooler classes, and dances! Dances – which meant dates – which meant dress shopping. High school was the dream… and before I knew it, I was there! It was everything my little jr. high mind had dreamed of. But midway through my freshman year, I felt myself longing to be a sophomore because that was the year that I turned sixteen – and everyyyyyyone knows what that means… a sweet sixteen party! Then, I got to sophomore year and turned sixteen and had the coolest party ever. Being sixteen was great… but what’s being sixteen if I wasn’t even going to have my license until I was seventeen? So, FINALLY I turned seventeen, and got my license, life was great. Buuuuut not as great as it could be if I was a LEGAL adult — if I was eighteen. Senior year came along, as did the big 18th birthday and I finally had everything my little heart could desire. A license, a car, legality … but I did not have a high school diploma quite yet.. and that would be when life would really begin, when I started college.
Well, now I’m in college. I have my high school diploma and a car and a license and a job and all that stuff. But… like always, I want something else. I want more. I want that next phase of life. Now, can’t wait to be done with school — to be employed in my career field. I can’t wait to get married…to start a family and be a mama. And I’m sure I will arrive at that phase in my life and…. I will want something else. I will want to be 5 years down the road. To own a house, to make more money, to have a better car…
Are you catching my drift? So much of our lives are spent longing for the next chapter of our lives to be here. To be a big sixth grader. To be a highschooler. To be an adult. To be employed. To be married. But what is going to happen when I reach the very end of the road? I can’t imagine the disappointment I would feel if I looked back on my life only to find that I spent the majority of it in want – rather than contentment and thankfulness for each season I was in. In Matthew, Jesus speaks about being anxious for tomorrow. Matthew 6:31-34 says,
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Further, James 4:13-14 talks about the future with similar respects,
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
The gist: Do not be anxious for tomorrow – your life is short.
Is that to say I shouldn’t be stoked for my future? No, my excitement ought to be for the future! Rightfully so. I’m in my twenties; this next decade will be when some of life’s greatest events are gonna happen. But – there is a difference between looking forward in excitement at my future – and living in envy, in discontentment for the season I am currently in. I am reminded by the passing of my grandpa that tomorrow is not granted. But today… today is here. My life has already begun. It didn’t begin in middle school, high school, or college. It doesn’t start when I get married or when I become a mom. It’s already started. It’s today. It holds opportunities and potential. Life is happening right now. If you don’t start looking around now and stop staring at the future, you just might miss it.
“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person i always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I have. In my head, I was always one step away. In high school, I was biding my time until I could become the college version of myself, the only one my mind could see so clearly. In college, the post college ‘adult’ person was always looking in front of me, smarter, stronger, more organized. Then the married person, then the person I’d become when we have kids. For twenty years, literally, I have waited to become the thin version of myself, because that’s when life will really begin. And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I’m waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin. Your life, right now is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension
. You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward… and beyond that, the God of the world lives in you.
–Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines