Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Waiting Game

Growing up my best friend for most of those years was a a lively, outgoing, energetic girl named Chelsea who always had a creative idea of the next best thing to do. She was never idle. She was always going, doing, thinking, planning and plotting. We met when we were in first grade and were practically members of each others families during third, fourth and fifth grade. When I left the public school we both attended in the sixth grade, our friendship changed and, naturally, grew apart.
Like any relationship, I learned things from my friendship with Chelsea. I remember her Mom used to get frustrated because Chelsea was always looking for the next activity on the agenda. If we were at the mall she wanted to know what we were doing afterwards. If there was nothing on the schedule she was sure to come up with something that could fill the next available time slot. Her Mom would sigh an exasperated stream of breath and then let out these words, "Chelsea, live in the moment!" Chelsea just couldn't stop looking forward to the next best thing. She couldn't focus and enjoy the moment. She was always looking to the next moment. I used to think this was a problem only some people dealt with. I knew how to live in the moment. I knew how to enjoy life, right where I was at... or at least that's what I thought. But the truth of my flawed and sinful human flesh is becoming evermore evident to me. The gap between who I am and who I want (and sometimes even think) to be is bigger then I could have ever imagined. As my eyes are being further opened to my own flaws I am beginning to see that I, too, suffer from the inability to truly live in the moment.
Much of life seems to be spent waiting for something else to happen. Think about it - the engaged girl is waiting for the wedding day. The accountant is waiting for April 15th to pass. The nurse is waiting for her shift to end. The child is waiting for summer vacation. The snowplow guy is waiting for winter's first snow fall. Everyone is waiting for something.
All this waiting isn't sinful.  It is healthy to have a sense of anticipation and expectation. A pregnant woman in her third trimester undoubtedly has every reason to be excited as she eagerly awaits the arrival of her child. The college student in the final months before graduation has every reason to be hopeful, looking toward the future and making plans for what lies ahead. There is nothing wrong with waiting for the excitement of the future to arrive. The trouble comes when we become so focused on the future that we neglect to see the present.
It is easy to get so caught up in what we think is around the corner that we unfortunately miss the beauty of the journey itself. The pregnant Mom should be excited for the baby's arrival but think of all she will miss out on if she doesn't take the nine months leading to that blessed moment to prepare, pray, and enjoy some freedoms she won't have once her child arrives. The college graduate can be counting down the days till they put on a cap and gown while still enjoying their final classes and outings with friends who will soon be going their own way upon the graduation date.
I don't propose how each and every individual should go about "living in the moment." It will be different for everyone. Maybe for one person they will need to stop and close their eyes, take a deep breath and count to three when they are starting to live outside the moment. For others, that kind of ritual won't be necessary. Either way, we all run into circumstances and situations where we are jumping out of this moment and into the thought life of the moments to come.
Recently I've been guilty of not living in the moment. Shall I start in on my list of excuses or would that be a waste of energy? Probably the latter. No matter how difficult life's circumstances become, there is no good reason to live like life is only one big waiting game. I'm afraid that is exactly what I've been doing. Instead of cherishing this time in my life, struggles and all, I've been twiddling my thumbs with the impatience of a three year old. My thought life has been the equivalent of doodling during math class. Things are happening around me but I'm tuned out; my mind is elsewhere. I've stopped living in the moment. I've retreated to thoughts of what the future might be - what I hope it will be. I have let my current trial sap me of my joy for the present. I have willingly given over "living in the moment" to "retreating from the moment". Call it depression, sadness, or just plain emotional exhaustion - I'm calling it the waiting game. I have been deliberately escaping my present, simply waiting out my current life circumstances.
This isn't the way life is meant to be lived. Each moment is precious and allowed by God. He has, for whatever reason, let our current life circumstances come to pass. Maybe those circumstances are exciting and joyful. In that case it is easy to live in the moment. Who wouldn't want to live in a moment of pure bliss? It is the trials and tribulations of life that are harder to remain present and all accounted for. Those are the times we want to run and hide until the storm has passed. But God ALLOWED the storm. He knew it would come and said, "bring it on." He didn't fly us out of the hurricane's path. He didn't divert the storm on another track. When times get rough it isn't a surprise to God. He knew they would come. So, who are we to retreat from them? If God knew they were coming and could have changed their path, yet didn't, then who are we to run from them or ignore them? Who are we to overlook them, shut our eyes tightly while they pound down on us and just hold out for the sunshine?
I'm reminded of that quote by Vivian Greene, "Life's not about waiting for the storm to pass... It is about learning to dance in the rain." Whether life is in its bleakest moments or is pure bliss, it is a time ordained by God. If He saw it fit that we should be in our given moment, then we should give it our full attention - not seek to escape it or simply wait it out. The moment isn't here to be endured, it is here to be embraced. Maybe it is to grow us spiritually, bless us relationally, heal us emotionally or challenge us mentally. No matter what the purpose - don't miss it. Don't miss the blessings that can only be found by living in this very moment.

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