By Gena Anderson
Approaching my fortieth birthday, I searched unsuccessfully to find inspiration to write something fitting for the occasion. I considered “Forty Lessons Learned,” or “What I’m Looking Forward to in My Next Forty Years.” It all felt like a square peg in a round hole.
I began to realize that, while life has brought me many meaningful and humbling lessons, I don’t want to rehash the past. I hopefully have a full life ahead of me, but I don’t feel like pondering the future either. What feels right is to sit this forty-year-old rump down, exactly where God has planted it, and experience today.
These years have taught and brought me much, and Lord willing the next forty will, too. But, if I can’t utilize all the hard, crazy, good, bad, and in between experiences of yesterday to improve my perspective today, what have I gained? Neither summing up the past nor declaring God’s goodness in the future bear significance without intentional presence in this moment.
I’ve completed degrees, committed wedding vows, birthed babies, mastered skills, pursued careers, and found a friend in Jesus. I’ve also hurt others, served myself, failed my husband and children, and turned from God. I can’t even begin to guess what the future will hold but I know if there is breath in my lungs then I’ll be given more opportunities for good and bad, and I hope to accept more of the former than the latter.
Right now I am ready to stop striving, whether away from the past or toward the future, and start L-I-V-I-N. If you read that as the character Wooderson, played by Matthew McCounaghey in Dazed and Confused, you did it right. If not, I’ll wait while you go back and read it correctly. That’s better. I’m mostly sure it’s acceptable for me to quote a movie, but not sure it’s “alright, alright, alright” for a Christian blogger to reference a movie that centers on a night of teenage partying, yet I’m doing it anyway. That’s another thing that happens as I age: the concern for what other people think decreases dramatically, and authenticity becomes a priority, or even a necessity.
I’m certain there is a point to this, stick with me as I sift through the cobwebs in my head to locate it. I’ll set it up with an example. When I look at my front yard right now I see beautiful, voluminous trees. We bought our house over a decade ago with developing trees, and I have watched as they’ve grown. Below the trees at this point is mostly dirt, as the grassy areas decline with each passing year, unable to survive in the shade provided by those canopies. When I look at that yard, I see the gorgeous trees I always wanted. When the homeowners association looks at my yard, they see dead grass, which is in direct violation of the established covenants of our neighborhood. Same yard, different interpretations. The experience of today is determined by perspective, what your eyes and heart are drawn to, and whether you choose to be disturbed by the dirt or soothed and inspired by the beauty above it.
When I look at my life I see a tapestry being woven by a creator. The picture is not yet visible but what is palpable and clear is the fully known and experienced love of God. That’s something I don’t want to miss. I can look back and take note of God’s goodness yesterday and stand on the promises that he will still be good tomorrow, but today is the only chance I have to experience it this side of heaven. Right now is the time to share the goodness of God with whoever he puts in my path. So many moments in the last forty years have been spent relishing or lamenting the past, and anticipating or dreading the future. I’m taking a moment to simply sit among and appreciate the trees, without wishing they were bigger or better, putting down grass to complete the picture, or wishing I had planned better to prevent the grass from dying in the first place.
Thank you God for giving me today, may I use it wisely, experience it fully, and know you more through the presence of mind to soak in everyone and everything you have put in it. Today is a good day, one I’ve never seen before nor will ever see again. I’m so grateful for the ability to be present today.