I have a bad habit of being nostalgic for moments that haven't actually passed yet. Normally it strikes in the present, but I have been known to lament the end of something that hasn't even started. I know I'm not the only one who does this. I am, however, the only one in my household.
BJ has a gift for living in the now and he would probably tell you that he has room to grow in terms of thinking a little more about the future, but his ability to be present is remarkable. I don't think I've ever seen him dwell on the past, and where I experience sadness today for change coming ten years from now, he can easily say, "I'll feel that when I get there." Then there are the boys. Goodness, if there was ever a lesson for living in the present, it must be children. Now is all that exists to them. Eat now. Play now. Sleep now. My three year old's understanding of time is summed up by the stickers we put on the clock to explain when things will happen. "When this hand gets to the elephant sticker, then you will take nap. And when it gets to the balloon, then we will go outside." That's pretty much it.
Unlike the men in my home, I live in a lot of places at once. That awkward conversation I had two weeks ago when I said something I didn't mean. The good and bad and beautiful and hard of today. And the emotions I will one day have to process as these times come to pass. Just writing down that last part makes me teary.
You know those songs that sing about good times gone? I hate those songs. Especially when they sing about the younger years of marriage and the tiny years with children. Those songs are like dry wood on the open flame of my anxiety.
This week we are on vacation.
Setting aside the stress of keeping one boy above water when he wholeheartedly believes he can swim (he can't) and keeping the other one from ingesting a quarter of the beach's total sand count, it really is lovely.
Every time we begin to sink into one of those sweet, brief moments where everyone is happy and playing or eating or resting, I almost instantly get jerked back out by an unnecessary heaviness from knowing that one day this will be gone. First there's the knowledge that today is Tuesday and in four days we'll be driving home. But then there's the knowledge that one day the boys will be big and I won't be able to lather them up with sunscreen and wash sand out from their ears. And this heaviness that I feel both here and at home, it's weighing me down.
I don't want to look back later and be disappointed by how much energy I gave to worrying over the end.
The problem I have with this whole time thing is that it isn't fair, and no matter which way I look at it, I can't find an angle that feels better. I waited and prayed and dreamed over this season of life. It only seems fair that I should get to stay in it as long as I want...you know, like forever.
I feel the fracture that happened back in that garden. Those moments that are so precious that we want to stay in them forever, I think that's because they hint at something that resembles the peace from those early days of the world. Just a trace of the peace we were made for and the peace we were made to experience forever. So of course I want to stay in this place and yes, it isn't fair that things end. Sin sucks.
Praise God for the hope we have through Christ on the cross, that things are redeemed in a way that is eternal. Forever.
For now though, I have to stop lamenting moments that aren't actually gone. My brain can only process so much at one time and if I refuse to keep filling it with this dwelling on something as unstoppable as time and change, the space that is freed up can be used to enjoy more, think deeper, laugh harder and remember with greater joy.
While we were walking down the beach yesterday, my oldest developed a collection of rocks to take home. No pretty sea shells for this kid. It's rocks and the bigger the better. He had two handfuls that he wanted to take back to the room and store for carrying home next week, but at a certain point he came across something that, in the moment, was more exciting - a big stick. Oh the wonder of a three year old boy! Picking it up was going to require putting the rocks down though. I reassured him we could pick up more later, but he resisted at first. How could he just leave them there? He tried to hold both, juggling his treasure in one arm and dragging the stick with the other, but eventually he let go of the rocks and was free to play, no longer held back.
I saw him spin past me with both hands on the stick, digging up sand and drawing animals and shapes. In more ways than one, I saw myself and I remembered that the weight of anxiousness over what is to come will only keep me from having open hands to enjoy today.
This misplaced nostalgia wants me to think it's my friend, that it's helping me stay present and focused. But if it was my friend, it would be life-giving...and it certainly is not life-giving. If I'm being honest and calling it what it is, it's straight up, unhealthy, joy-choking, stomach-turning anxiety. It is whispers from an enemy telling me how sad it is that this will one day be gone. It's lies suggesting that if only I remember that, somehow I can slow it all down and be more fully here. But the truth is it takes me away. It produces a fear that if I forget how fleeting the whole thing is, if I forget that we are vapors in the wind of time, then suddenly it will just be over and I will have not soaked it up. People say, "you blink and it's gone." And that's my fear. Everyday it's my fear. But fear is not from God.
I don't have a list of steps to get to a place of more freedom. Lists feel better, but sometimes the answer to changing something is to simply decide to think differently and then to do it. Sensing my anxiety over these things, my dad sent me this text on Friday: "Live in the moment. 'Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.' Matthew 6:34"
When Jesus talked about how we should pray, it was very much a prayer of the present. Gratitude and requests for today's provision. He didn't even mention tomorrow.
For those like BJ, always present and never fighting time, I admire you. For those like me, I feel it with you. Let's choose to listen to Jesus. Let's choose gratitude for those sacred spaces we find so much life in and then let's choose to enter them free of any thoughts that might detract from the joy that was intended in their gift. Let's simply say thank you and savor it.