Mourning the Before

logo_-_copieWe often mourn the before: before the betrayal, move, diagnosis, death, election, etc.

We look back at a preferred time and situation.

I get it.

And while mourning the before might be beneficial and even necessary for a season, it can become counterproductive, even creating distortion and confusion, in the long run. We can make the before something that it wasn’t, and compare it to the flaws of now, creating discontent.

We can fondly recall the past, but if we try to go back to it, we will fail every single time. We can only learn from it and move into the future with the lessons, examples, healing, and experiences.

We can mourn the before but live in the after.

The Beginning and the End

love_endures_foreverPsalm 118 begins and ends with the same words:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1,29)

What if we bookended every day, every situation, every conversation with this reminder? How would this consistent claim give context to everything we do, say, and think?

We repeat things to ourselves all the time. We have favorite mantras we live by and repeatedly claim. We share them with others as we deem appropriate. But how truthful is what we claim to ourselves? How humble are we to seek the truth in what we live by?

How will you bookend today? How will you fill the in-between?

When Today is More Difficult Than Tomorrow

Worry doesn’t always have to do with the uncertainties of tomorrow. Sometimes today is so difficult, it obscures our view of even considering tomorrow. A hymn claims, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,” but sometimes today seems too much to handle. We’re not even sure how to get to tomorrow.

We can’t handle today. And perhaps that’s the point.

The claim that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle doesn’t do much to comfort us when we’re overwhelmed. Hearing God doesn’t give us more than we can handle when we feel like we certainly have more than we can handle simply overwhelms us more. Let’s be honest: that claim isn’t true. We often have more than we can handle.

sunrise

God intends for us to trust Him to bear some of the burden and help us through. We don’t trust Him to simply help us with the way we want to handle something. We trust Him enough to know He’s helping us even when we can’t imagine how. We try to look at Him instead of our swirling circumstances. We let His truths overwhelm our feelings about a situation. It’s a messy process that we can’t completely explain, but we take it one step at a time, with Him, and someday, somehow, come through the discombobulating experiences with a changed perspective. And sometimes, we don’t come through it at all but continue to move through, even with no end in sight, with a sense of peace.

We can’t handle it all. God can. We can’t understand it all. God can. We can trust Him, but we have to reach out to Him

Because He lives, we can face today. No matter what.

The First Time

Some firsts are exciting.

  • 1st day of kindergarten (I really liked my pink pleated skirt!)
  • 1st paycheck (Even if I got sun poisoning lifeguarding that summer.)
  • 1st dorm room (Cleaning the floor with furniture polish was not a great idea.)
  • 1st plane ride (And the grandest view of a sunset in my life.)
  • 1st cell phone (Even if it didn’t fit in my pocket!)

Some firsts aren’t so exciting.

  • 1st speeding ticket
  • 1st overdraft notice
  • 1st surgery
  • 1st perm

My first date was boring. My first kiss was sloppy. My first bridesmaid dress was hideous.

Firsts can be thrilling, frightening, or disastrous. The first is always a beginning. We don’t stay in the first. We grow from it. We shouldn’t steep in it; we should step out of it. It’s a journey.

You experience a first every day of your life. You have a choice to live today in a way that sets the foundation for tomorrow. Hopefully, many of the days leading up to this one have set firm foundations on which you’re now building. The firsts of today set the pace and priorities of tomorrow. You can wait until tomorrow’s today to make changes, but why waste today?

I remember the “today” I decided to live all other todays of my life for God. I appreciate the memory of that day, but I’m not going to reside in it. I don’t want to lose today and the opportunity to choose to live for God in the details of my new today. I haven’t filled every today with great choices. Not even close. But each day sets the pace and priority for the next.

What pace and priority are your setting today?

Challenge: Write a number one on your index finger in ink or permanent marker. Each time it catches your attention through the day, consider what you’re experiencing that can be used a foundation for tomorrow. Be intentional in your choices, responses, and adjustments.

Excursions to Explore

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©2015 PurePurpose.org

I love the beach. Give me a week on the beach, and as long as I have a stack of books to read (or a loaded Kindle), I’m content. Perhaps it’s because I live in central Illinois, nowhere close to a beach, nowhere close to a balmy body of water. Whatever it is, being at the beach is a treat I savor.

But, staying on the beach for a week has its costs. I miss out on anything…well…non-beach. To some, that might not seem like a big deal, especially compared to life in the midwest, particularly winter. But I recently left the resort for two full days to venture inland, and I was so thankful.

I would have missed so much. People. Mountains. Homes. Small villages. Waterfalls. Rivers. Roadside stands. The lushness of the land nourished me, as much as the waves and sand refreshes me. As I soaked up as much as I could, I realized I was still missing some things. I couldn’t take it all in. But I could take in what was in front of me.

When I don’t go where I’m supposed to go, I miss out on what I’m supposed to see and experience. I miss out on new people, changed perspectives, and renewed attitudes and passion. I can only be at one place at a time, but I can be fully present in that place and time. Otherwise, I not only miss out on where I’m not, but I also miss out on where I am.

Today, take a look around. Perhaps the routine of it all seems too familiar to notice anything new. Perhaps the newness is so overwhelming you can’t imagine taking it all in. Either way, there’s something for you to see, to do, and to become. Don’t miss out. Follow God well.

He leads well.

What If?

Today-is-Your-Best-FriendThat thing you think could happen later today, tomorrow, or somewhere down the road? Yes, it could happen. You might get the diagnosis, lose your job or life savings, move, mourn someone you love, deal with a debilitating disease, lose a good friend, and the list goes on and on. All your worst fears may come true…but playing the “what if” game isn’t going to help.

The possibilities of tomorrow might seem overwhelming today, because you are in…today.

Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

When you worry about tomorrow today, imagining how you’ll be able to deal with something, you don’t have the grace you’ll have if or when you actually have to face it. You’re ill-equipped. You imagine an event, but you can’t take into account how God leads up to and surrounds the event. God gives you what you need each step along the way, but you have to embrace what He offers today in order to prepare you for tomorrow. You might not understand how one thing can possibly prepare you for something else. It might not seem connected at all. But God knows.

Just because God prepares us doesn’t mean we feel prepared. Facing painful situations is still overwhelming. But can you imagine if you hadn’t had the preparations along the way? How much more daunting would it be?

Perhaps you live by the mantra, “Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.” You don’t want to be caught off guard. But you can’t fully plan for every single possibility. You are never going to take all the surprises, good and bad, out of life. God is much better at planning and preparing than you are. And you can trust Him.

Are you willing?

Commercial in the Desert

The land around the Dead Sea is fairly desolate, except for a few places nourished by fresh springs or irrigation. We stopped at one of the lush sites to float in the salt-soaked waters, but we could easily see the parched land around us. As we walked toward the Sea, we glanced back to see the makings of an excellent commercial:

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

A Coca-Cola truck making a delivery in the middle of the desert.

Of course, it wasn’t an actual commercial. Coca-Cola trucks make deliveries in many places, and since this particular area attracts tourists and locals, a truck likely makes daily or weekly deliveries. The truck was on its normal route, but I caught a snapshot that, in my mind, created a representative ad for the product it carried.

It made me wonder what other generalizations I make. What do I “snap” in others’ lives that become a generalization about them that may or may not be accurate?

What do others “snap” of my life, and how accurately do those snaps capture the reality of who I am?

If someone took a photo of you today, even right now, and created a commercial depicting your life, would it accurately reflect your life? If not, what do you need to change? People are watching your normal route. Make sure you pay attention to the impressions you are making along the way.

We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9b-10)