Wasting Years or Wasting Moments

We sat at dinner. The sun had already gone and the day was almost over. We sat in silence and we also talked and I replied: “Thinking about the future only overwhelms me because it makes me want to be sure I’m living well right now. Down the road, I don’t want to regret how I’m living now, or what I did or didn’t do.”

I don’t want to waste the years. And that is good, but my guess is that we get caught up in not wasting the years and forget to make sure we don’t waste the minutes.

In the end, I wonder if its that the years can’t really be wasted, only the minutes can be wasted.

La imagen puede contener: flor, planta, naturaleza y exterior

The years are part of our story, so they’re never really worth throwing out. Because when we look back at the fabric of our lives — the years woven together, the string that runs through them, God’s hand through it all — we see how it all works together. The years, they weren’t wasted even if at the moment they felt like it. Even if they were filled with suffering or plans that didn’t work out or experiences that others would label a “mistake” or “failure.”

Of course we should try to live our years well, with the people we need to be with, doing what we should be doing, where we should be doing it. But instead of fretting so much about whether or not we have wasted years, maybe it’s better to focus on living the moments well, no matter where (or how) we find ourselves in any given year.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:24

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More manna comes in the morning

“Don’t resent the moments simple because they cannot be frozen. Taste them. Savor them. Give thanks for that daily bread. Manna doesn’t keep overnight. More will come in the morning.” – ND Wilson

In the Old Testament, God gave his people bread from heaven. His bread for His people, His provision. And it couldn’t be kept overnight except for the sabbath. Basically, they were to rejoice in the gift, accept His provision and follow His instructions for it.

And that is still what I, one who belongs to Him, am to do today: delight in all the sweet moments, perfect provision, and gracious gifts of today. I should not resent them because they’re fleeting or worry about what will come tomorrow. The gifts I’ve been given today are meant for today and tomorrow’s gifts may be different but they will also be good.

“Rebecca, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:41) I want to joyfully collect my manna for the day, spend time with my God, and trust Him and His heart.

He knows me in and out, better than i know myself, and like a good dad, He will give me GOOD things, not just the things I want him to give (Matthew 7:11).

He has given me manna for today and I am thankful for it. More will come tomorrow.

Try and fail

Someone, flustered by disorganization and their scattered thoughts, told me “I’ll get my life together soon.” I just said “We never do. That’s a myth.”

Getting our lives together is a myth. When I was newly out of college (and still sometimes now!) I would get home and just say to myself “you’re doing it, Rebecca! You’re doing this adult thing.” I say that to myself because I realize I’m trying and failing sometimes. I’m playing the game. I’m in the ring. That means I’m doing this thing called life and, dare I say, doing it successfully.

“Adulting” successfully is not doing things perfectly, but rather giving it a go every morning. I’m convinced that sometimes it’s the attempt that matters. That is adulting, this is life, and no one ever actually “gets it together” or figures it out because, among other reasons, life is constantly changing.

In fact, if someone has it so “together” that they never seem to fail.. then I’m afraid they’re not really living life at all, they’re managing and controlling and doing what they can but not what they could.

Assured success: that’s my comfort zone. I want perfection and successful execution of whatever I set out to do, so I tend to pick things that I know I can do. Bad place to camp out. 

Can good habits be cultivated? Can success and excellence be pursued. Yes, and they should be and that’s what I strive toward. But the first step is often an attempt and maybe a fail, and lots of grace and kindness for yourself in the trying-failing-success process.

If you’re engaged and open and feeling and dreaming and trying and failing and crying, you’re doing it. Be brave enough to be vulnerable enough to try and fail.

Quick to do good

Recently I set out on a secret helping mission — the kind where you surprise someone with something they need or secretly do something to help. Secret helping missions are fun.

But this time I was on the bus home, frustrated because my mission had failed. I had a great idea, set out to do it, and it just didn’t pan out. I texted another friend, expressing my frustration and she replied, “So what do you think about the adage ‘It’s the thought that counts’?”

I replied: “Not sure. I think it’s dumb I guess.”

person using smartphone(photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

Because it’s not really the thought that counts, is it? That day on the bus home it wasn’t my thought that counted because the idea in my head meant nothing to the friend I was trying to help.

I’ve said it plenty myself. “Oh well, it’s the thought that counts,” I say when I have a great idea, try to do it, and it just doesn’t work out. It’s the thought that counts.

Or is is the trying that counts?

Good thoughts that don’t turn into action don’t count for much. In the end all the good ideas in the world do nothing to bring comfort, to relieve pain, to encourage, to help, to build up.

Thoughts turned into actions are what count, even if the effort isn’t a perfect, raging success. The trying is what counts. The obedience to do the good thing is what counts. My heart is changed and filled and, if all goes well, the people around me are changed as well.

“Every day you can do one thing you you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.” – Ann Voskamp

person washing fork(photo by Catt Liu)

It’s about the trying, the showing up, the being there, the doing, the putting thoughts into actions, even if those attempts don’t have a 100% success rate. Sometimes helping is awkward. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. It’s okay. The showing up is what matters.

A few months ago I was thinking and praying a lot about what it would mean for me to be quick to do good. Quick to help. Quick to love. Quick to serve. So that if an idea pops into my head, I won’t spend time thinking about it, coming up with why it’s inconvenient, why I don’t have time, or why it would be awkward (and my selfish heart is very good at that!).

Instead, I want to learn how to jump into action, to get right to the good that God put in my mind to do. I want to learn how to let the love of Jesus quickly compel me into action. I want to be quick to be selfless. Quick to go on lots of fun, secret helping missions.

That’s what counts, isn’t it? Being ready to do good, quick to act, efficient at turning thoughts into actions. Quick to serve and make it fun, even if it’s a little messy.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

 

 

Cheerleaders

A coworker gave me a gift. A fountain pen. Because I’d never had one before. Because I love pens. Because I write. With this gift and his words, he said, “I like what you write. Keep writing.” A simple gift turned into a huge encouragement.

Just like that we can communicate to another human: “I’m cheering you on.”

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What does it look like to be each other’s cheerleaders? To actually show them that we “believe in them”? To effectively and creatively communicate to them that we’re behind them, that we think they should go for it?

Cheering people on is much more than simply telling them that they can do it. It’s equipping them to do it, giving them the tools for their trade, providing them with the space and opportunities they need to develop, stretch, and grow.

Taste buds

One of my greatest pleasures in life is having good food experiences. I delight in it. I mean the whole shabang — delicious food, great company, excellent service, cool atmosphere. And obviously the yummy food and taste-bud-exciting flavors are the base of a great food experience.

La imagen puede contener: personas sentadas, tabla e interior

Have you every thought about the fact that we have the capacity to taste with our mouths? God could’ve just made our mouths to be the first step of digestion, crushing the food that we need. Or he could’ve made us like flowers that simply glean our nutrients from our surroundings. Efficient and miraculous, but not very enjoyable.

We are not robots that connect to a battery, nor are we flowers that spread their leaves toward the sun and extend their roots into the ground. We get our energy from food but it doesn’t stop there.

We’ve been gifted with the ability to taste! To relish the flavors of tart lemons and spicy peppers and summer peaches and juicy steaks.

We aren’t even simple animals that eat and prefer one taste over another. We are humans that define tastes and experiment with textures. We are beings that create, combining tastes and textures to make edible works of art. To create food that is meant not only to provide us with the energy we need but that’s also meant to be savored, enjoyed, and delighted in.

I am a tasting creature with the capacity to enjoy — that is no small gift.

I need people

Too much or not enough for other people, that’s what we are, or at least that’s what the little inside voice tells us.

“Tone it down, they think you’re too much,” and later I hear, “Get it together, they think you’re not enough.”

And out of self-protection, we fight that inner-conversation with “No, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me!” That’s partly true, but we’ve made a virtue of not caring about other peoples opinions when the truth is that it does matter what people think and say to us. It’s both-and. It doesn’t matter and it does.

My true identity is not based on another person’s opinion of me. I am who I am — beloved of God, free, secure, and redeemed in Jesus Christ — despite a person’s judgment of me. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what they think of me and it shouldn’t matter. My deep identity, peace, and joy should never be shaken by someone’s opinion of me.

But precisely because my identity is sure, I am free to allow myself to let people speak into my life. If I’m sure of my identity, I can simultaneously heed what other people say to me but not be wholly dependent on their opinions. My secure identity frees me up to calmly and gratefully listen to a dear friend who tells me that I’m in the wrong.

If my identity is secure, the opinions of other people will never wreck me, and their words will be valuable to me.

In fact, I need people whose words do matter to me, I need people who can speak into my life, and I need people to have some kind of authority over me. It matters that I listen to the people I trust. It matters that I show all of myself to a few chosen, close, trusted friends or family, and trust them with some authority in my life.

woman wearing gray jacket
(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

I have to stop being an authority-hog in my own life. So often I live as the queen of my own life — a kingdom in which I make the rules and what I want matters most. We create our own guidelines, based on nothing other than what we want or feel at the moment. No wonder we have fights and abuse and wars.

I need to be changed – deeply, from my guts to my skin, and I need God to do it in me. I need something outside of myself, something objective that I return to and listen to even if, at times, it contradicts my desires and flighty feelings. Otherwise I’m just living as the self-enthroned queen of my own life where I make the rules and standards of right and wrong and change them whenever I want.

I don’t want to be the queen of my own life. I don’t want to because I want to be selfless, I want to love people, and I don’t want to steal glory from my Jesus Christ.

If I don’t want to be queen of my own life, I need other people. Other people will never define me, but I do desperately need them.

I need trustworthy people in my life who are brave enough to speak to me when I’m straying, who remind me of my true identity, who know how to encourage me, and who love me enough to speak truth to me even if it’s hard. I will give them the right to confront me when I err, to cheer me on, to hold me accountable, and to ask me the hard questions.

And only because I rest in my unshakable identity, the things people say are no longer earthquakes that wreck the foundation of my soul. Instead, the words I hear from people will either be life-saving and life-changing or simple opinions that don’t even ruffle my feathers.

When I don’t care what people think, I lose my capacity for connection.
When I don’t care what people think, I miss out on valuable wisdom.
When I am defined by what people think, I lose my willingness to be vulnerable.
When I am defined by what people think, I will never know who I am in Christ.

“If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed. It’s a tight rope, shame-resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality check the criticism and cynicism.” Brene brown