Whether it’s conversations with my wife or with friends it seems as if we’re all trying to understand the season we are in or the one we think we should be in. Maybe to feel less confused by adulthood or maybe to feel more in control of our circumstances. Maybe at best, it’s to tune into what’s on the heart of God. Either way I think it’s a valid question that has, in most cases, left me profoundly stumped.
I think everything from becoming a parent to quickly approaching thirty has caused me to think a little differently about things. What matters most and certainly what matters least. Many of the things that felt central to my life have faded into the background. Things like my family, friends, and Jesus have bursted into the foreground of my life like never before. It’s not that all those things were less important before, it’s just the older I get the more I want those areas of my life to really shine. The more I want my actions and daily choices to invest in those things above all else.
I’ve been incredibly blessed to start a family with the love of my life. We’ll soon celebrate 8 years of marriage and our daughter will turn 3 later that same month. Our marriage and our transition into parenthood have both been incredible journeys. Filled with a vast amount of challenges that have tested every part of us and taught us how to fight for what’s important. For me there seems to always be these moments of recalibration that happen. Where I embrace self-awareness and try to assess how well my actions have upheld my core values. That’s part of the challenge. I don’t want to just talk about family being important because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. I want it to actually be deeply important to me and then see my choices align with that conviction.
The truth is sometimes I feel exhausted and literally need a cup of coffee just to feel alert when my daughter wants my attention. On top of that, as a parent, you feel guilty for feeling exhausted. As if you aren’t allowed to be tired anymore. The same applies to marriage. Life gets busy and overwhelming sometimes. It can be easy to not tend to the most important relationships in your life the way you really want to. As a husband and as a father I have realized that my wife and daughter have come to need me in ways that caught me off guard. To my surprise though, the thing they seem to need the most is me. Hopefully this doesn't oversimplify everything but it seems to be true. They don’t need all of my great wisdom and opinion on things, and trust me I have some. They don’t need all my DIY skills, which thanks to YouTube videos I am learning those skills as well. No, they just seem to need me and they need me present. Family is perhaps one of the best places to observe your own habits of being present or not. They are the ones closest to you in every possible mode you find yourself in. Of course the idea of being present applies to every area of our lives. Family and friends absolutely. Even our relationship with the Lord requires a certain level of intentionality and being present.
I think some people may have the amazing ability to wake up and spend the majority of their day in that day. I, regretfully sometimes, do not have that same disposition. At best I’ve found myself in and out of planning, thinking, and strategizing about something coming up in the next few days. At worst I’ve found myself planning, thinking, and strategizing about the next few years. I’m not knocking plans and goals. My wife and I have always made them and it’s been a huge part of us staying on track. Moving in the direction we feel the Lord has asked us to go and using goals to get there. It’s just some people, like my wife for instance, are masters at executing steps to complete goals. I’m more of a master at allowing myself to dream about what’s possible. Both are extremely important. But I don’t know what I’d do without my wife to help balance me out. She often points out the 15 steps it takes to accomplish the goal while I’m still plotting said goal.
If you are like me I’m so sorry. Don’t worry, you’ll be okay...I think. At times, I've put so much focus on a goal that I forgot to take the first step. In the most practical of examples taking that first step could be a great way to also be present. It’s not a new idea. Many have heard the old proverb - a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Well duh! For me, I think the importance of being present in every step along the way has to do with real success.
I used to think that success was accomplishing the goal, reaching the finish line, and maybe enduring until the end. Those are all great. Nothing wrong with any of that. I just think that unfortunately those things often overshadow the opportunity to thrive, learn, and enjoy growing within every step.
Most of life is not filled with reaching all of our planned destinations anyway. It’s filled with daily steps to get there. It is our job to get real about how we are doing and what we are doing in the in-between. We all have responsibilities, families, careers, projects, things that demand our time and attention. Often times there are dreams, goals and plans attached to those things. At the end of each of our lives those things won’t be as important as the three things I mentioned at first. Family, friends and the Lord. How are these areas of my life doing in the midst of all this other activity? Are they thriving? Are they growing? Sometimes for me that answer has felt like no. Or not like I want them to be. That’s okay. I think most of the planet could use a touch more self-awareness. We don’t wallow in our inadequacies. We embrace them and change them. We grow.
Last night I was standing in our kitchen making a sandwich. It was at the end of a very long day. I had lead worship that morning and had such an amazing time with our team and our church. My family and I went out to lunch afterwards and even ran into friends at the restaurant. Then I headed home with our daughter for the evening because we didn’t have our normal childcare setup to lead youth group. So Becky stayed in town to lead that night which was, from what I heard, an amazing night. Eventually she made it home and we got our daughter to bed. Then I realized I forgot to eat dinner. Which leads me back to the sandwich...
After a great, full day I found myself just making a sandwich and thinking about nothing. It’s sounds kind of simple and silly but there are those moments where it feels like in 2 seconds you have this amazing epiphany. This clarity hits you out of the blue. For me, it was that. I thought, "I am right here. In my kitchen with my wife. Making a sandwich." I felt so incredibly blessed. Not for what was on the horizon and not for all the breakthroughs of the past. No, I felt blessed because of that exact moment. I felt thankful in ways I can’t easily describe. Maybe, most importantly, I felt present. We began to have an incredible conversation that lasted about an hour. A moment that could have easily passed us both by. We have a great marriage. She’s been my best friend for over 12 years. Still, these moments add to us. They build us up and they increase our connection.
Let me end with this. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Somehow on the journey to understand where we are and what season we are in, we need to remember one thing: who we belong to.
You can give yourself permission to be present because your future already has incredible plans in place. Plans that are from the Lord. Plans that He has had for your life before you were ever born. This is His promise to you and me. This is the promise that can encompass any fear or any doubt of what is ahead. It can dissolve any worries about your timeline. When I allow myself to be present with the Lord, He reminds me of all this stuff. The very things I need to remember to uphold what is truly important to me. He reminds me.
So let’s not just figure out the seasons we are in, let’s thrive in them. Let’s embrace it, good or bad, victorious or challenging. Let’s embrace it and remember: The Lord had gone before us and prepared what’s ahead of us. Deuteronomy 31:8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
In other words, slow down, take a breath, trust the Lord and MAKE A SANDWICH!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you find it difficult to just be present? Are you like me? Always dreaming about what is next? Or are you more like my wife, planning the next step to get to the dream? What do you do to be more engaged and present in the moment?
Comment below - I'd love to hear. :) As always, thanks for reading.