Last year I went to a conference in Pennsylvania to be refreshed and encouraged. It was put on by Global Awakening (GlobalAwakening.com) which is Randy Clark’s ministry. While I was there, I had the opportunity to attend a partner’s luncheon where Randy answering questions.
If you don’t know Randy’s story, it’s a powerful one. I can’t tell it all here, but he was part of the Vineyard movement under John Wimber. Wimber heard the audible voice of God tell him that Randy would travel the world and lay hands on people to activate them in the gifts of the Spirit (among other things).
Skipping over a lot, Randy planted the first Vineyard church in St. Louis (I think the first one east of Colorado—the movement began in California). He later went to Toronto to what was supposed to be a conference and instead turned into a huge modern renewal movement, with meetings lasting for years (and still going on). He now travels extensively and ministers across many denominational lines, seeing thousands and thousands of people saved, healed, and delivered.
At this conference, though, they were asking him about his early ministry when he planted the church in St. Louis. It was difficult, and he didn’t really know what he was doing (I know how that feels). As he described planting this church with his friend while his kids were young, he started to cry.
He said, “Looking back, I think those were probably the best years of my life.” This was not a referendum on his current life, but a realization that there was something really special about building something with his family while his kids were still in the house.
This really resonated with me, because I’m at a similar point in my life. I felt God was encouraging me to learn to enjoy the present more. I know I’m guilt often of looking towards the future and thinking, “Wow everything sure will be great when…”
I’ve got three little kids. It’s often exhausting. Sometimes I try to write these blogs and I can’t even seem to think straight. It’s easy to think, “Wow, when they’re older, I won’t be so tired, and I won’t have to change diapers, etc.”
The crazy reality, however, is that often the things that give our lives the most meaning are the most difficult. Many times, it’s only in hindsight that we recognize how significant some of these moments are.
You may be in a different phase of life than me, but regardless of what phase it is, there is always a temptation to miss out on the present by looking ahead too far or looking back too much.
Even though that’s the case, I’ve also noticed that the advice: “Enjoy __________ (your wedding, your career, your kids, grandkids etc.) it goes by fast” doesn’t seem particularly helpful. It’s not that it’s not good advice. However, it tends to create even more pressure because we’re constantly thinking, “Am I enjoying this enough?” If we’re not careful, our anxiety about not missing stuff can actually cause us to miss it. How frustrating is that?
What’s the solution to all this?
I think it’s found in Colossians 3:17
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
We have to do a lot of stuff in life. Whatever we’re doing, if we can learn to pause every so often to be thankful, that’s what really ensures we get the most benefit from our time on the earth.
If in the middle of changing diapers, we can remember to be thankful for being entrusted with a precious child that God loves, suddenly the task gets a lot better.
If as we’re facing deadlines at work we can remember to be thankful we have a job and that God is providing for us, some of the tension begins to drain and we think more clearly.
If while we’re fighting with our spouses, we stop and remember all the things that brought us together and all the things they’ve done for us over the years, thankfulness starts to arise and frustration begins to ebb.
Longing for a future reality can keep us trapped there, missing the blessing of today. Similarly, fearing missing the present actually traps us in the past, worried about whether we appreciated enough what we had. But the simple practice of saying over and over, “Thank you Jesus (and thank you wife, husband, kids, coworkers etc.)” is what really causes us to follow Thoreau’s advice and “suck the morrow out of life.”
We say thank you, not because everything is perfect in our lives, but because in the mess and mire, there hides spectacular, radiant beauty, waiting for someone with the wisdom to see it!