I was listening to a podcast from Sarah Jakes Roberts the other day. She is like my big sister in my head and whenever she drops truth, I know it will stick with me. A young woman in her early twenties was asking for advice about her spiritual walk. She had become a Christian within the last few years and wondered what her next steps should be. Essentially her question was, "Where do I go from here?"
"I think one of the most dangerous questions that we ask ourselves repeatedly is where I do go from here?" said Jakes. "I think that's a dangerous question to ask because we end up discrediting what here could be trying to teach us. If every time we arrive we're reaching for what's next, how can we ever come to a place of contentment?"
Okay, mic drop right. Jakes said a more powerful question instead to pose, "What is here? What is here for me? Who am I in this here?"
I've been grappling a lot with these questions lately. If I'm honest, I'm a goal-oriented person. Once I achieve something, I'm always thinking about what the next BIG thing is. I have an active imagination, which I guess is good for a writer. So, I could sit and daydream all day about what the next five, ten, fifteen years could look like. I think to some extent we should all set goals for ourselves because it helps us create a vision for what we want our lives to look like. Write them down. Tell a trusted friend. But also, after going through a global pandemic that shutdown the world in a moment's notice---I'm realizing there's very little we can plan or control in life.
I think we all know that our days are numbered. That life is fragile. That we only have so much time to laugh with our friends, hug our parents, eat our favorite foods (I can't stop craving Tex-Mex lately). But, I also think we can live with a false sense of unlimited time. It makes us focus on what life will be like THEN, instead of right now.
I think sometimes we want to escape in our minds to the next chapter of our lives because the one we're in right now is tough. We think somehow by daydreaming about the future, it will make today's lessons easier to face. I know this season may be tough for some reading right now, and if that's the case I understand. There have been many seasons in my life that I like to call "eat your vegetables" that I didn't want to go through. I didn't want to eat the vegetables. I wanted the ice-cream and pie days of summer.
For me, those hard seasons that I toughed it out and learned how to eat my vegetables are the ones I usually grew the most. It reminds me of the Bible verse in Romans 5 that says, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Out of suffering we get perseverance, then character and eventually hope. Many of us want to just skip to the hope part, right? But what if we stuck out the harder days to gain the perseverance we need for the future? What if we let God develop the character we need right now? That way the hope we have later is built on something firmer, greater than it ever could've been if we just skipped this chapter of our lives.
And while we're focusing on here, God has also been nudging me to focus on more than just myself. I'm also trying to ask who should I serve in this season? Who should I encourage today? Who can I help out? When we're thinking about others instead of ourselves, it also puts our own problems into perspective. It also gives us greater purpose than trying to figure out how to please ourselves that day.
None of this is easy. That's why I call it "eat your vegetables" because eating your vegetables kind of sucks. But, there's also a reward in focusing on today. Because some of today you may want to remember. What if you want to remember the joke you and your friend laughed about for 20 minutes straight? What if you want to hold onto the lunch you had with you parents because they're getting older and you don't know how much time you'll actually have with them? What if you want to hold onto the person you're becoming right now in this season?
For me, I know that there's a freedom I have right now that I probably won't have in the future when I'm married and settled with kids. I met up with a couple of friends for breakfast on a Monday the other day, well, frankly just because I could. I know this time I have right now is finite and fragile. I'm trying to hold onto every second and make each day count.
I've been watching Pastor Mike Todd's series, "Here is Holy" that dives into this very topic. Check it out if you're interested in learning more about how to be present with here.