What do you think of when you hear that word? Present. My kids would say “It’s my birthday!” and then I would have to explain to my four year old that no, not everyone’s birthday is yours and her presents are not yours and get into this deep philosophical “discussion” (argument with a four year old!) about why it is that she’s only had four birthday’s and unjustly her brother has had seven. And now that we’re down that “life is unfair” rabbit hole, my son tells me how unfair it is that he has to go to school one thousand days a week, while his sister (in preschool) only goes two. And down and down and down we go and in the end, the only thing they wake up in the morning remembering is that mom didn’t get them any presents for their not-birthday, school is too long and tedious, and life’s not fair.
Present. When I hear that word, my thought is that I am not in it enough. It’s the truth. I want to be here more, but often I find myself in the past, rolling over the thoughts of things that should have been. He should have been a better dad to my kids, or he should have never married me and promised for life if what he meant was for now, or he should never have hurt me in all the horrible ways that he did and what did I ever do to deserve that. And then it gets me thinking about all the terrible things I know God will do to strike him and her down for how wicked and cruel they’ve been to me and my precious children and surely God is on my side in this matter and He will bring justice and then…
And then I start to imagine beyond the pain of the past and I leap forward into the future. All the things that I want and plan and dream for and all of the beautiful things that I know God is going to bless me with. Because I’ve been faithful and God loves me and wants to bless me with those things. My boyfriend and I married in our own home with all four of our children. Our new lives in the church I love. Flying all over the country visiting friends and speaking at conferences. Dancing together to jazz music in the kitchen while we cook. Romantic outings and family outings. Being financially stable and debt free. Wow! And don’t get me wrong, because I know God wants to bless me with all of those things and I know He has plans for me, to prosper me and not harm me and to give me hope for my future. (Jeremiah 29:11) And I know that it is a beautiful plan He has and I trust him and I look forward to it, but then…
Then God starts to speak to me about present. Jealousy is a powerful weapon of the enemy. Just like my children, frustrated over what he got for his birthday, while I didn’t even get a birthday or why she goes to school less then I do. Jealousy. Sure, I could sit here looking at the past and wishing God would justify it and punish him. I could be frustrated that what I see doesn’t look like God’s wrath. But what does this get me? I can hope for more then what I have in my future. I should get what she has, because I am more righteous and I deserve it. I can hope for better and more beautiful things. I can even know God loves me and wants to bless my future with those things. Yes, I can. I can look to my future and know God is going to give me these wonderful things and desire them, but what does that do for me now? I can’t be grateful at all, let alone joyful for the things that I do have in my present, when I’m so focused on the past hurt that can’t be changed or altered and so focused on the future of what I should have and deserve that I can’t see the work of God’s hands before me.
No, I can’t even mutter to Him a thank you. Just like my children complaining that his birthday wasn’t my birthday or that I have to go to school while she doesn’t. I can’t be grateful for the blessings He’s given me. I can’t even see what I have in front of me. I can’t enjoy it, because look at what he has or she has. God it’s not fair.
If I was completely honest with myself, I wouldn’t want to change the past. What God removes from your life is just as important as what He adds; And yeah, it was hell losing what I thought I wanted so badly. It hurt like hell at the time, but I am here in this present now and I am grateful for my scars. Changing my past means my present is different. My present looks like this: I have two beautiful children that grew from that past hurt of a lost marriage; I have the most amazing man in the entire world that loves me (how did I get so blessed Lord?) and that grew from the past frustration of a long stand for restoration that didn’t turn out how I planned (it turned out better); I have a beautiful home that has been and will continue to be a blessing for me and our family that grew out of the past challenges. A deeper glance would show a long standing career and a blooming and growing business, a vehicle fully paid off, friendships that only came through divorce, a ministry built from the ashes, relationships with lost loved ones restored (my adopted niece, returning). Most importantly, a relationship with the Lord so deep and intimate that I couldn’t imagine this kind of love. I still struggle to fathom the width and length and height and depth of this overwhelming and relentless love. (Ephesians 3:17b-19)
If I was completely honest, I don’t want to be in charge of my future anyways. I love to know the plan, but I know from my own experience that my plans never work. When I submit my future to the Lord, I don’t even really have to know the plan at all. I can wake up day after day and say “Hey God, waddup!” (Yeah, we have that kind of relationship) followed by, “What do you have planned for me today?” And then just take the step that’s right in front of me. I can take that one step, knowing that this one little mark is a leap forward into the future He has for me.
But surrendering to Him like this does something to me more profound then I can really even put down in words. It releases me. It takes all the pressure off of me and puts all the trust along with all the responsibility onto God. Like a child who gets buckled into her seat in the car, she doesn’t know where she is going or for how long they will be gone, but she knows who is driving and that is all that matters. She trusts the Father and He has the best plans for her and so she can sit in her seat and enjoy the ride. She can stare out the window at the clouds or sing a song with the radio or chat with her Father and never really worry about where they are going or what is to come. She can enjoy her present. The present is a gift. His presence is a gift.
And when I look at this truly through the lens of the blessing He has presented to me, I start to realize that I don’t want revenge for my past or wrath for him. Yes, he wounded me deeply, but when I look at my Lord, I see His love and His grace. I see that I also wounded Him deeply. He forgave me. He forgave me and so who am I to withhold forgiveness? No, he doesn’t deserve it, but I do forgive him, because Christ first forgave me.
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
And then when I look through the lens of the blessing He has presented to me, I start to realize that I want what God has for me. Yes, I have desires in my heart for my husband, my marriage, our new lives together, our home in a new city, our children, our church. In fact, I do believe God put these desires in my heart with the specific purpose of blessing me with these things. Still, I can make my plans, but the Lord directs my steps.
Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”
In this beautiful life God has built from ashes, I’ve come to realize that goodbye is a gift and leads to new hellos and the only way to get from the past to the future is to live in, soak in, and enjoy the present.