Grace for the now.
The life that “might be” often causes us to miss the life that’s right in front of us.
I’m feeling old lately. I picked up my kids while carousing with them the other day and proceeded to pinch something or pull something in my neck. Isn’t that when you know you’re old, when your “playfulness” results in injury? Bless my wife, I was rendered useless the rest of the day. Even today, the twinge in my neck and shoulders hampers any peripheral rotation of my head. So that’s been a fun development.
But, incidentally, another way in which I’ve been feeling my age recently — you know, besides the cacophony of sounds emanating from my knees — has been the nostalgic delight I’ve found in looking at photos past. And while I don’t have any sort of photo album or “scrapbook” to scour to reminisce on the days of yore, I can conveniently launch a photo cataloging app on my phone or laptop and swiftly scroll through years and years of memories. With a simple tap, I am transported to the moments of yesteryear, spurring a thrilling trip down memory lane. During one of my recent “trips,” I found myself alarmed by how gapped my recollection was of events that were only recently past. For instance, this is a snapshot that stopped me in my tracks:
This is Lydia and Braxton. Lydia was approximately two-and-a-half and Braxton was barely two months. We had just moved to Pennsylvania from Florida, completing easily the biggest transition our little household had ever experienced. We were entering a new world in a new state with new people and new friends with whom to do life. A new ministry awaited us. A new opportunity, too, to put down roots for, honestly, the first time since Natalie and I were married. We embarked on this new chapter with quiet faithfulness not knowing the ends but sure of the One who had called us. Despite however fraught our past was, we knew that moving to the Keystone State signaled a turning of the page in lives.
And all of that feels like decades ago.
For some reason, still unexplainable to me, that season of life feels likes years and years removed from the present — when, in reality, it’s been just over two years in between that moment and these ones:
Braxton’s now well into his “terrible twos” (which aren’t so terrible at all, actually), Lydia’s four-and-a-half, eager and earnest to begin pre-K this fall, and Natalie is expecting our third little house-member in October (we anticipate a Reformation Day arrival for Princess Bailey!). Life has moved forward, with many days and moments, both big and small, filling up the space between. It’s hard, in the moment, to see the ways things are changing. The daily development of your kid is difficult to appreciate except when you stare starkly in the face of their growth. Looking a digital picture of such a reality makes it all the more apparent that but for the grace of God, I am lost.
I look at pictures documents days past and I think of missed moments. Lost opportunities. Disengaged days. Wasted hours. I think of the ways I’ve failed to “be there” for those who truly need me. The ways whatever stressful, pressing matter preoccupied my faculties more than what was right in front of me. And, more often than not, those preoccupations turned out to be vexations over hypotheticals that never came to fruition. Pretty sure that’s the very definition of worry, for which Christ has these words: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself” (Matt. 6:34).
I confess such things because I’m confident that you, too, could make a similar confession. We often miss the present because of anxiety over the future. The “mights” seem to out-volume the moment. Whatever “might” happen takes precedence over what’s happening now. The life that “might be” often causes us to miss the life that’s right in front of us. Perusing old pictures makes me realize how much I let that happen — and how desperate I am for the grace to stay present. I pray for the unique ministering presence of the Spirit of Christ which allows future concerns, good and right though they be at times, to dissipate in the delightful life of faith in the now.
I cannot tell you how proud I am of my little family and the way we’ve planted ourselves here in Pennsylvania. We love our little life. And the church to which God has called us. And the friends with whom we get to spend these days. God’s been overwhelmingly good to us throughout the past two years. There’s no doubt about that. He alone is the One whose been nourishing and providing and growing us all along the way. And while there is much to look forward to, there’s too much for which I am grateful right now to be all too concerned about those things. Tomorrow, surely, shall have enough cares of its own. Today, well, today “is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).
Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.