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Yesterday, an elderly woman held a door open for Noah, smiling and greeting him as he passed through. His response was to peer at her wrinkled, prominently-veined fingers and announce, “That’s a weird hand!”
Needless to say, we got to have our first conversation about keeping those kinds of observations to ourselves until an appropriate moment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time. This weekend we welcomed dear friends back into town for a visit, and heavily sentimental tendencies sent my emotions and memories spinning in a dizzying muddle of past and present. We attended a graduation open house for a young relative and blinked in disbelief at the dates on displayed pictures. He was so young at our wedding. So young. Friends are celebrating 36th birthdays, 38th birthdays, and my mind doesn’t quite understand it because we were all twenty-year-old kids just yesterday. I promise, we were.
I could ask where the time went, but all I have to do is look around. Babies-turned-Big-Kids, new jobs and opportunities, moves and ministries. Heartbreaks and healing, relationships built and bruised and some still split wide open. Community that’s weathered storms and come out battered but hopeful. Stronger. Raw and real. Friendships that have learned what being there really means, beyond rhetoric and lip service – that understand the sacred privilege of seeing the depths of pain and coming alongside, hearts poured-out and broken and holding up hope on behalf of another. The growing. Oh, the growing.
It’s not really getting older that makes me anxious. Sure, there are aspects of vanity and comfort that I don’t want to give up. People in the generation before ours that I can’t fathom the thought of losing – even though my faith assures me that those separations are temporary. I think what I fear is a dissatisfaction with the present – a looking back and longing to be there again. I know what it feels like to long for the next thing, but I don’t want to be stuck grieving the last thing.
I’m learning, though, that perhaps that fear is a waste of time. On several occasions, I’ve asked people ahead of me in age if they would go back. Not if there were seasons of life that would be fun to revisit, but if they would go back if they could, knowing what they know now. Almost without exception, the answer is no. Even in this phase of life where I see my kids growing so quickly that my heart aches and I often wish time could just freeze … right … here, I wouldn’t want to go back. Life with Maya at 15-months-old was delicious, and Noah’s baby belly laughs slayed me, but I wouldn’t trade these days with a seven- and four-year-old to go back there. I’d miss this far too much, Maya reading aloud to me and Noah asking to play endless games of basketball.
That was good. This is good.
That was good. This is good.
I asked myself this weekend, as we spent time with our visiting friends and the swirly feelings messed with my heart and my head, what it really was that I was feeling. Did I miss my life of eight years ago? Would I go back there? And it was with relief that I realized the answer. I miss our friends. A lot. I want them to come back. But I don’t want 2004 to come back, as much as I loved it. I miss them. That’s what the ache is about, and that’s okay.
I guess I’m just reflecting today, and praying that God continues to give me perspective. That time’s relentless march forward would continue to be okay. That even when it’s hard and sentimental and swirly, I would be able to see with clear eyes what it is that I’m truly longing for, and know – with a peace that passes understanding – that it’s yet to come.
Even when I have weird hands someday.