[Originally published in the Monroe News on November 5, 2021]
My life feels as though it is approaching a rather eye-opening crossroads. My oldest boy is just a year and a half away from moving out and heading to college and beyond. My middle boys will both be in high school. I also have a soon to be 3-year old and the Lord has blessed my wife and I with one more child who is expected in January. I’ve spent the last 16 years looking forward to days when my boys would be old enough to be in sports and other fun Dad-loving activities. I so yearned for those days when I could take them camping and introduce them to other wonderful adventures. Now I look at it and it seems as though these precious days have come all too quickly. I look at my young daughter and I can hardly remember the days when my boys were at such a tender (and cute!) age.
I believe this is a rite of passage that every parent goes through. You simultaneously look forward to the future days when your kids graduate or get married or give you grandkids. Yet at the same time you long for the days when you could still hold them in your arms. What are we to make of this? Is it part of our human nature to always long for both? To long for what we don’t have? I frequently find myself looking forward to big events. I’m always anxious for the next vacation that might be around the corner. I can’t wait to see the next big event in the lives of my children. But I also don’t want to so quickly bid farewell to the present. I don’t want life to go by too fast.
When we allow ourselves to get too caught up in what is still to come we risk doing so at losing out on the joys of today. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I even catch myself doing this in the midst of one of my favorite activities. As I’ve written about previously, I love to hike. I love to be out on big adventures on the trails. Yet a very strange thing happens almost every time I go out. I get started on a trail and it doesn’t take long for my mind to begin to think: “how long til I finish?” “How many more miles to go?” “When will this be over?” These thoughts befuddle me as I’m in the middle of doing something I love and yet my mind is looking ahead to the finish. We do this in life all the time. And it causes us to not be present. We don’t engage with the things of today and I believe we miss out.
So what’s the solution? What’s the answer to this conundrum? I would put it this way: “Thank God for the journey!” While it is okay to anticipate and hope for a beautiful destination and goal at the finish line, it is just as good, just as joyful, to take heart in the journey that is happening right here today. Give thanks for both the journey and the finish.
When you think about it, life’s joys happening today are all a part of what makes the destination so sweet. Watching your child graduate or get married is the culmination of all the days you spent raising and loving them. It is all a package deal, the today, and the tomorrow, the journey and the goal.
This hope of looking at the present and using the joys of the present to anticipate the future is a very Biblical thing. It is especially an Old Testament thing. Consider this: when Israel was enslaved in Egypt for 400 years God raises up Moses as a deliver. God uses Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, through the parted Red Sea and into their freedom. This points us forward to the delivering Savior that would be Jesus. Likewise when the prophet Elijah raises the widow’s son from the dead. God using an old prophet to perform a miraculous resurrection was just a foretaste of the great things still to come.
Thank God for the journey indeed. The present comes and goes too quickly for us not to find peace and joy in what God is doing right now. But we also have the added pleasure of knowing that our Lord’s greatest works are still yet to come.
To God be the glory.
Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org