Monday, March 26, 2007

Longing

Do you ever feel like you're wishing your life away?

For many years now, I've struggled to keep myself focused on the "now" of life. When I was a little girl, how I wanted to be grown up! The make-up, driving, getting to make my own decisions...then life would be such fun, I was sure.

Then came high school. Sure, it was filled with way too many distractions and all sorts of activity. I thrived on the academic "competition", and there was always something fun to do. Fully buying into the public school system and the Youth Group mentality, I was living large, so to speak. Invincible. Yet, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew almost everything I was doing was an exercise in futility. Surely, college would be much better than this...and I could hardly stand the wait.

I wasn't disappointed. Baylor proved to be everything I'd hoped for, and then some. My life was good, and I knew it. I enjoyed it. I drank it all in, intoxicating myself on what I believed to be one of the best stages in life. And yet...I couldn't help but let some of it slip by unnoticed, distracted by the anticipation of the next stage in life. I longed to be married, to have a home of my own, to have the time to read things of my own choosing, rather than just what was assigned.

I married almost immediately out of college. Then came the longing together with my husband. Life was great, we acknowledged, but wouldn't it be even better when we had such-and-such job, when we bought a house, when we had kids, when we.....you get the point.

C.S. Lewis paints a good picture of this phenomenon in his Screwtape Letters. By constantly longing for some it's-gotta-be-better-than-this future, or dwelling on some those-were-the-days past, we're being robbed of the gift God gives us daily: the present.

It's good to have goals. It's healthy to optimistically anticipate God's future blessings. But in the process, let's not lose sight of the beautiful blessing of today.

I still struggle, even though I long ago realized this to be a weak point of mine. Now that the stages aren't so pronounced, it's a more subtle longing: when our kids aren't all preschoolers, when we're completely debt-free, when the business is more predictable, when we start homeschooling, when the grandparents live closer, ad infinitum.

Some things I long for are very vague; it's just an unsettled feeling that nests in my soul, nudging me to believe that something better lies just on the horizon. What it is, I don't always exactly know---but it leaves me with a feeling of anticipation.

Perhaps this longing is natural, to some extent. After all, this earth is not our true home. We're merely here temporarily, until we join our Lord in heaven. We will never feel truly and completely comfortable here, because we're not here to stay. But God has us here, living this life, for a purpose. And as we live out that purpose, we're called to be content.

So I need to not miss it. I've got three tiny people who live for today depending on me. They take joy in their snacks, in their walks, in their coloring, in our games of hide-and-seek. They don't worry about tomorrow, or even really anticipate it because, frankly, they have no concept of time. For them, now is everything, and now is great. The past is gone--everything before that last nap is gone, for that matter. The future is just when we'll play the next game or read the next book or eat the next piece of fruit, and boy will it be good!

As I look back in my photo album of life, I am sentimental. Some shots fill me with mirth, others burden my heart. And I do wonder what will fill the still-empty pages of the photo album of my mind. But I know one thing for sure: if I spend my time wishing for the future, or longing for the past, it will rob me of the present. And that would not be a pretty picture.

7 comments:

Sanders said...

Stephanie,
Such a good and thought provoking post. I have recently been thinking a lot about these kinds of things. Mostly because things are changing so drastically in our lives right now - we are expecting a child in September (and YOU KNOW all the changes that come before that date, especially physical changes), plus we are canidates for mission work here in the inner city area we live in and are waiting for my husband's ordination, setting a budget, and a whole host of other decisions. All on top of a job change for my husband as of last June, so we could do this. It's been a time for me to try to accept what God is doing and not dwell on the past. All that to say, I really appreciate your post - it ministered to me.

Hofwoman said...

Amen Stephanie. What a great post - such an encouragement, thank you :)

Krista said...

Steph, you and I both struggle with the same thing. That paragraph up there about college- totally me right now. But I'm learning more and more that God's plan is just that- completely His. I have no control over the future. I mean, sure, I still long for a day when I will have a marriage built on the Lord and a family to take care of, but it's not guaranteed. I just have no idea what's next in life, and that's kind of exciting (and scary!) too! :) Your writings are beautiful :)

Candace said...

Well said, Stephanie! Thank you for the eloquent reminder to enjoy each and every day (the NOW) as a precious gift from God!

Shelley Roberts said...

Steph, I think I could have written this same post and I try to remind myself each day that each moment is a gift to be enjoyed. Thanks for making me feel a little more "normal!"

Lady Why said...

Wise words!! You are realizing a very important truth at an early age which is a blessing! With my oldest child being 17, I tend more for the longing of days gone by... so I would say - as I'm sure many others say to you all the time - cherish these moments when they are little! They truly are over in the blink of an eye!!

Tami said...

I ran across this quote of CS Lewis the other day and thought of you. Not that I am disagreeing that we need to appreciate the here and now, because God has given it to us. But I thought in light of your post, you would appreciate it.

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."