We’re cleaning out the garage and moving boxes up to the attic so I’ve been tasked with sorting through them. I get sidetracked with a box of photo albums from the old days when we actually got pictures developed and took the time to paste the best ones in books instead of just scrolling through Instagram.
I sit for a long while thumbing through the pages, remembering.
It’s difficult to live in the present. I’m often nostalgic for the past. I’ll think back to the times when life seemed more full of possibilities and less full of lived experiences. I’ll remember what used to be, before kids or marriage or the mundane weariness of days where I am neither a world changer nor crisscrossing the globe as I had once hoped. I didn’t accomplish half of the things I dreamed when I was a girl in the picture, tanned and smiling into the sunshine, unaware of what the next 20 years would hold.
Instead, I am a wife and a mother, someone who defrosts chicken for dinner and pays the mortgage. Someone who lathers on sunscreen because instead of that tanned girl in the picture, she now has wrinkles and age spots and skin cancer to consider. Someone who adds toothpaste and paper towels to the grocery list and wakes up everyday to do pretty much the same things. It’s hard not to long for other days.
Or I am a woman who pines for the future. Everything will be different once I lose ten pounds, once school is out for summer and I can rest, once I finish this to do list, once we have more money or time or health, or that new couch at Costco. Everything will be better eventually.
Somedays I have nothing but sorrow for what used to be or what might have been or what could be if only…
I had a conversation last week about contentment and how hard it is to settle our souls. I want my life to matter and in that very desire lives a multitude of regrets.
Where is the balance between holy discontent and the desire to live a fuller more robust faith, the kind of itchy passion that stirs things up and leaves us hungry and desiring more beauty, more wonder, more of Christ in our everyday, and the siren song that woos us with promises that our one life could be so much fuller if only things weren’t so ordinary, so hard, so unspectacularly not what we had hoped for?
Sometimes I get stuck in the flux of that timeline and I lose my place entirely. I wish I were as certain about things as I was in my twenties when everything seemed black and white and I dealt with the blows life dealt with a surety that the right faith and the proper theology could deflect. But I don’t really wish for that, because those were the years when I was so sure of myself, of my mind, of my own strength and abilities, and so very unsure of God.
I was going to change the world, but now I realize the only thing changing is me.
I am learning faithfulness to the ordinary. I keep learning it again and again and still my mind wants to retreat through time back to places where I am not confronted by my discontented soul of now. I want to unhinge the call to be content from my everyday and latch it onto better times, either to come, or long past. I don’t want the uncertainty of quietness, of smallness, of faithfulness to a present day I must simply live.
What is required of me is the steadfast dwelling in the goodness of God each and every day, moment by moment, even if those seconds don’t seem to add up to much. And that may be one of the hardest things of all. Because our obedience will always be more important than our effectiveness and yet that’s not what the world applauds, it’s not even what my own soul often appreciates. It’s certainly not what I had hoped for all those years ago when I asked God to take my life and make it His. And yet our lives being His requires that daily taking.
It is a relentless release, not my will but Yours.
When I look back over my shoulder, I don’t want it to be with longing but with remembrance of all God has brought me through, His abundant goodness to me all of my days. When I dream of possibilities, I want them to be rooted in obedience first, not glory or success or the praise of man.
All I really have is right now. What has God tasked me with for today? What thanks can I give? What beauty can I behold? What grace can I share? What prayers can I pray? What injustice can I right? What forgiveness must I ask? What bitterness must I confess? What joy can I feel? What sorrow can I cast on Him? How can I be faithful in my right now with laundry to be done, bills to pay, and floors to mop? How can I live wholeheartedly in today?
I am learning faithfulness to the ordinary. I am learning it again and again.