Sometimes I think back on seasons of my life and wish that I could go back and live them knowing what I know now. I mean, I’m sure everyone feels that way. But often what I find myself thinking is, I wish I had engaged more. I wish I had leaned in, seen value, searched for beauty, asked more questions, and pursued depth.
For example, I wish I had more fully understood in high school that every person you meet has deep value and inherent worth. That it wasn’t possible for someone to “not be worth my time.” I wish I could go back and seek light and speak truths to my high school peers who were all just as insecure and unsure of themselves as I was.
I wish I could go back to college and invite more people to more things. I wish I had planned parties, been a catalyst for attending fun events, and made more people feel welcome around my table. I think I was consumed with seeing whether I would be invited; it felt presumptive to think people would want my invitation.
I wish I had learned quicker as a nanny how powerful and complete “no” is and that I am deserving of respect. I wish I had learned sooner that I am not a doormat and no one is allowed to bulldoze me, even (and especially) 8 year olds. I wish I had found my backbone a lot sooner in my life.
I wish I had believed that my voice mattered when I was in seminary. That maybe I had something to offer to that class of overconfident white males. You never know who you are speaking for.
We can look back and wish a whole lot of things; I’m sure if you were sitting with me right now you could tell me all the things you regret, the ways you wish you had engaged in your life. But we cannot sit in regret or shame, that is never God’s way, we can only learn and move on and hope that we become more of ourselves.
I think the beauty is that I see glimpses of these things in my current life. I do try to speak truth into people’s lives, I do invite people, I have gained a little bit more of a backbone, I share my opinion, and I give time to investing in people’s lives and hearing their stories. But I realized this week that I am awfully future focused instead of applying these hopes to my current life.
I also dream a lot. I keep them close to my heart, but I dream big for future things and I’m starting to wonder if I miss out on the beauty that’s currently here because I’m so ready to be future-me.
Ever since I met my high school youth pastor’s wife, I was ready to “arrive.” I figured, she’s got it all together. She’s beautiful, smart, wise, funny, has a husband – she’s got it on lock. I can’t wait until that day happens for me. Then I remember her ruining that for me later on when she shared that she has never felt that way, that she is always learning and growing and becoming more of who God designed her to be. And oh wait what? Life doesn’t magically come together (or begin) when you find a husband? GASP.
So I think my dreaming still hinges on this false idea that someday I will wake up and be exactly who I’m “supposed” to be. I’ll be confident – totally knowing exactly who I am, I’ll be beautiful (flawless appearance obviously means you’ve made it, right?), and I’ll be the world’s mentor – everyone will come to me with their problems and I will always have the right thing to say and the right way to fix it and everyone will want to be my friend.
So the thought I came to this week was: am I engaging now? Am I living the life that is happening right now? Or am I kind of a third party onlooker to my own life? It is kind of like when you are trying to tell someone something but they are texting or distracted by something else and they are only listening to you out of the corner of their eye (metaphorically speaking). Am I really listening to my own heart? Am I seeing my own life? Am I here, now, present to my present life?
What if who I am “supposed” to be is exactly who I am in this very moment?
But am I driving faster than my soul wants to move? Do you ever feel like your soul isn’t lined up with your body – like when you look at a 3D movie without the 3D glasses on? Sometimes we need to slow down enough to allow ourselves to be where we actually are. It seems weird, right?
Jesus did this though. He removed himself from the crowds and the noise and the praise to simply be. He prayed and let His soul catch up with His body. He took space to breathe and be in His Father’s presence. This is how we lean in, this is how we engage. If we are caught up in our past regrets or our future plans, we miss out on the beauty all around us.
I’m realizing it is a fight to stay present. It is not natural for us to stay here, right in this moment, right where we are. Even as I wrote this I found myself wanting it to be Sunday, or Wednesday, or next year. The only way to stay present is to s l o w d o w n . Take a breath. Look around. You can choose to step into the rotating door of the world and move at that pace. Or you can step away from the busyness and slow your world down.
So how do we really do this? That was my question. And then last night a friend invited me on an adventure where she gave me three envelopes for each step of our journey, and whichever one I picked, that is where we went. So we ended up sharing a 26 inch pizza (#GLORY), eating ice cream, playing Bop-It in front of the giant french fry sculpture (if you live in Denver, you know what I’m talking about), and driving around finding books from Little Libraries (the coolest). And never once during our time together did I think about where I have been or where I am going, but was just present to the silliness and beauty of our time together. I didn’t need to be on social media (but you better believe I instagrammed that PIZZA afterwards) or be worrying about what anyone else was doing or question anything about anything. I know that life isn’t always this simple, and often things happen that make us acutely aware of our past mistakes or deeply long for a better future. But we can always ask ourselves, “Am I being present to my own life? Am I engaging in where God has me in a way that is pleasing and glorifying to Him?
All this to say: If you are seeking His will and being obedient to His call, who you are is exactly who God wants you to be. If we just choose to pay attention, He will meet us in our present moment. Make space, invite Him in, and be present to your life today, friend.
So that you know what I mean by the french fry: