I have spent a lot of time lately reflecting the course of my life.
Whether it is the fact that 40 is quickly approaching (like a Mack truck ready to hit me head on) or whether it is listening to the dreams and aspirations of my students as they neared the end of their high school journey or perhaps it is the reality of my own children who are leaving childhood behind one by one to enter this new world of tween-ness and adolescence–whichever of these is the catalyst, I have found myself reflecting in depth my early dreams, where I thought I would go, and where I instead am, and where it is I want to go from here.
I had a plan, and that plan is most certainly not where I am. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, had a lot of unique experiences. I’ve traveled the world, mothered orphans, taught basic hygiene in remote villages. I’ve had a daughter of my own, loved her unconditionally, and a year later buried her in the cold, hard earth. I have counseled the mentally ill, talked the suicidal down from the ledge, and tried to help the abused piece their lives back together. I’ve taught little children, and big children–and changed a few of them forever. I have done lots of things, but none of these is what I planned to do.
By my own measuring stick of success, I should have been living internationally for a couple of decades by now. Whether Saipan (as we first intended) or China (plan number 2) or somewhere else entirely, I should not have been stateside, living in suburbia. So, despite all I have done, all I have not done weighs heavily on me. The road I was to have taken has not been taken, and with that comes a measure of failure, a sense failed opportunity that begs me to ask, why? Why has my life gotten so off course? Why do I find myself here, when I was supposed to be there? Why does my life today not look how I pictured it oh so many years ago?
I think we all go through these moments and these struggles, and though I am far from having all the answers, I am slowly, over the decades, piecing together an answer with help from many others.
There is a disparity between where I am now, and where I feel I should be. It makes me by turns angry, frustrated, or depressed. Sometimes God Himself takes the brunt of these emotions–why has He allowed this? Why does He not do something? At other times I turn them on myself–what is wrong with me? Am I weak and undisciplined? Can I not hear the voice of God? Or sometimes they turn on fate itself–why is the world against me? Fate has conspired to keep me from my path! Regardless of who I focus this angst on, the reality is that the angst is there, it is real, and at times it is palpable.
I don’t like being angst ridden, and I don’t like not having answers (though I have consigned myself to sometimes not getting them) so I have spent a long time wrestling with the whys, and I think I’m beginning to piece together part of the why.
Patience. It is something that I have always lacked. Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today? (That’s not to say that I don’t have a procrastinating streak a mile wide for the things I don’t want to do)
I have always struggled with being content in the now. I am a mountain top person. I am always looking ahead for the next mountain to climb. As soon as I get to the top of my current mountain, I am ready to tackle the next one. I am always looking ahead–restless.
It so happens that my son is the same way, and in watching him, I have understood myself better. No matter how good the moment, Gavin is always thinking ahead to the next moment. He seems to lack the capacity to take each moment and get the most out of each of them, because he is not focused in the now, but in the tomorrow. And how much he misses because of it!
As I have watched my son, I have begun to understand what it is I’m doing. I look at my now too often as a filler, something to get through so I can get to the next big moment. And the twenty years since my dreams were derailed, have often been just that to me in a lot of ways–filler.
There is a little book called “Anonymous” by Alicia Britt Chole that I have read and re-read many times over the last few years. I have found myself drawn back to this book in my recent reflections, and I found myself hit anew by several of the things she says:
What grows in that underestimated gap between God’s calling and others’ perceptions, between our true capabilities and our current realities? Most of us struggle if our dreams are delayed one year, let alone twenty! We find God’s pauses perplexing. They seem to be a waste of our potential. When those pauses extend beyond what we can comprehend or explain (say, for instance, three days), we often spiral into self-doubt or second-guessing…Father God is neither care-less nor cause-less with how he spends our lives. When he calls a soul simultaneously to greatness and obscurity, the fruit–if we wait for it–can change the world.
This is a truth that I’m trying to wrap my mind around. The journey in getting somewhere is at least as important as getting there. The journey is what changes me, and makes me into an individual who is capable of doing what I’m supposed to do, and the journey is full of friends and moments that are worth having, that can be life altering.
I think of Moses. He had a destiny–to free the Israelites from slavery. He knew his objective, so, one day, he sees an Egyptian beating a slave and he thinks to himself, “This is my opportunity!” and he kills the Egyptian, and in so doing he thinks he will begin the revolution that will free his people–only it didn’t. In fact, instead, he had to flee (what to his mind probably felt like abandoning his people all together–not to mention his destiny) and live in virtual obscurity for the vast majority of his life. He was living in the gap–in the place of disparity between what is, and what he thinks should be.
Were all those years wasted years? They probably often felt that way to Moses. Was Moses wrong about his calling? Absolutely not. But he was wrong about the timing.
There are moments in our lives when we feel like Moses. When we feel as if we have failed our dreams, we have lost our destiny. There are moments in our lives when we look at our now and see nothing but filler–but we’re looking at it the wrong way. There is no such thing as filler–not where God is involved.
Alicia Britt Chole puts it this way:
We have a tendency to think that “main” is out there, not right here. Main is on hold. waiting to appear until after…we finish our education or get married or find that dream job or start a family or resolve that conflict or complete that task or get out of debt or retire or slow down…[but] I hear a gentle whisper from God in my soul: Child, I am the God who waste’s no man’s time. To me, every course in your life is main.
That rings as true to me. No moment in our lives, no season, is filler. It all has purpose. If we are too busy looking past this moment to the next one, we’re going to miss what it is
we’re supposed to do, see, become…
Embrace your today for what it is–life.
Today, how will you become more than you were yesterday? Today, how will you give back? Today, what is it you need to learn? Today, who needs your help?
As for myself, I’m going to stop looking so much at what I’m not doing, and start looking more at what I can do, right now, right here, in this season of my life.