It’s graduation season…a time when our youth are turning the page to begin a new chapter in their life’s journey. At the Old Fashion Hymn Sing last night (what a blessing that was by the way), I couldn’t help but look around at the years of experience, wisdom and knowledge present and hope all these patriarchs and matriarchs of our church have been intentional about passing down the lessons of their lives and faith to the generations who are now charged with remembering from where we’ve come.
Though my memory fails me more and more these days, I can clearly recall the many conversations with older and wiser men when my wife and I first started having children. While each conversation was different, the message of each was the same – to enjoy the diapers, the messes, the screaming, the fighting, the noise, the clutter. Soak it all in now because you will one day come home to a house that is quiet and clean…and miss it all.
It all seemed so far off back then. I mean when you hear that advice as a young parent of a newborn infant, you’re exhausted and worn out and think to yourself, “how’s about we get through bottle feeding and diapers before we start talking about college plans old man? I mean really…I’m living in a mine field of dirty diapers and tantrums and sleepless nights and mustering every ounce of energy just to survive today intact.”
And, then it happens. One messy mouthful at a time, they’re weaned from the bottle and onto solid food, and we start moving to the next phase…walking. One step turns to two, and then they’re up and running circles around us and we move on to the next stage…potty training. A few accidents and a whole lotta messy nastiness later, they’re screaming at the restaurant table, “Daddy, I went number two like a big girl!” and we’re high-fiving them on to whatever’s next.
And, life gets to going…so fast in fact…and in just a few short years we’re watching her walk across the stage of high school graduation and into adulthood. As we’re left dazed and confused in the dust wondering from which side the Tasmanian Devil just attacked, the words of that old man eighteen years ago come back to haunt us, and he doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. Here’s where I say to all you young whipper snappers…go ask your Google who Taz is.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
I’m pretty sure I’m writing this for myself more than you, because I constantly need this reminder. Even as my boys are just now turning 9 and 11, I look back on their young lives and realize I’ve already missed so much. In constantly looking with eagerness to the next phase of their lives, I’ve taken for granted the phases we’ve gone through and not enjoyed them to the fullest.
Are we to plan for tomorrow? Absolutely! Are we to remember the past and from where we came? You betcha! There’s a saying I’ve tried to live by over the years: “the rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield so that we can know where we’ve been, but where we’re going and what’s ahead of us is more important.”
While true, how much more should our attention be on who’s in the car with us?! We’re not traveling this life alone, and the relationships around us are important. You know…that whole ‘loving God and loving people’ thing? In the span of just one month, my two boys had birthdays, my daughter graduated high school, and my wife and I celebrate a marriage that’s 25 years young. And, I’ve been so focused on where we’re going – and making sure we get there in one piece – that I’ve not enjoyed the ride nearly enough. The words of all those wiser men who tried to warn me away from the mistakes of their youth are ringing truer and truer for me now.
I don’t think it’s just me…maybe you can relate? Maybe you’ve raised your family and are excited for grandchildren to be born? Maybe you’re right here in this phase of life with me, moving from one activity to another so fast you can’t keep up? Maybe you’re all up in the tantrums, sleepless nights, and dirty diapers just struggling to survive unscathed? Maybe you’ve just graduated high school and are excited about what’s next? Maybe you’re in high school and can’t wait to get out so you can live your own life under your own rules?
Wherever you are in life, God wants you to enjoy it right there. Yes, now I’m the old man in the room offering up the advice I once whimsically ignored. Nonetheless, it’s not too late for any of us. Regardless of what phase of life we’re in, God hasn’t called us home yet, so He has a purpose for us still. Together, let’s stop looking forward to the next thing and enjoy right now for what it is…a chance to glorify God in the moment by loving those around us.
Now, put this down and go enjoy the company of your family. Give them a hug and a kiss. Let your daughter (or granddaughter) paint your toenails after the tea party. Read her the bedtime story…even if it’s the same one you’ve read so many times you can quote it from memory. Go play catch with your son (or grandson) and leave the phone inside. Sit them down and tell them the story of your life. Go on a walk around the neighborhood and reconnect with your spouse. Pull out a board game and spend the next two hours loving the ones closest to you. Enjoy it while you can…because one day you’ll wake up and will have missed your chance.