Last week I celebrated my birthday. Hooray birthdays! And I have noticed that with each passing year I find myself wandering down Memory Lane more frequently and much more purposefully.
It is there that I remember: Life is short but love is long…suffering.
At this point, I’m no where near “old” and am still very much enjoying the days of my youth but my age is no indicator of how much longer I will live. My days are numbered by a sovereign God who will take me home to be with Him in perfect timing. That could be before my next birthday, or 50 years from now. Regardless of the length of my life, I don’t want to miss it. I want to cherish it.
When I was a child I would live each day going nowhere but forward. Plowing ahead and ready to be, see and accomplish the next thing. It never crossed my mind to look back and it certainly didn’t make sense to stop altogether! There was a whole world out there to be discovered! Today was never as exciting as tomorrow, and who cared about yesterday?!
I was paving the way to “big kid-ness”, oblivious to the two solid yellow lines that were faintly beginning to appear on the widening road ahead. With each step into my future, my past began to require it’s own piece of the pavement. Before I could blink twice my childhood sped into my adolesence and my adolesence into young adulthood and now (though I begrudgingly and skeptically admit it) I’m heading straight into adulthood.
And now they’re impossible to ignore– those two bold yellow lines. I am now traveling on a two-way street: my future laid out before me, my past laid out beside. I am no longer just forging ahead as an adventuring toddler, leaving behind a wake of memories. Today I recognize the future and the past and I’ll shamelessly admit that I’m turning into a “yesterday-monger.” I eat up my past, I spit out the sour parts, I cry and laugh, I replay the same scene over and over, and I swallow it with a lump in my throat so I can move forward better understanding how God is shaping me and how He wants to use me.
One moment I was on my way to becoming a world-famous actress complete with a pink feathery boa and glittered heels, the next day all I could do was vent to my journal about how mean boys are and how surely everyone would notice if I wore the same pair of jeans twice in one week?! One moment I couldn’t wait to have pimples (the tride and true mark of adolesence!) and now I’m bemoaning their fixed presence like a party host with awkward late-staying guests. One moment I looked at the business world and thought, “Someday I’ll dress up in nice clothes, walk into a big office building and be important!” Now I’m wearing nice clothes, walking into an office building and finding myself reminiscing about my childhood spent in hand-me-downs and backyards.
There are days where I sometimes wish that the two solid yellow lines would dissipate into a dotted line, into a parallel world of childhood and adulthood. Where I can play dress up with my sister for hours then go over to my handsome husband, give him a big kiss and talk about our future together. Where I can run barefoot through my backyard with clover flowers in my hair and then turn around to scoop up my niece and watch her face light up in glee as she zooms about in my steady grown-up arms. But it’d be a silly reality and one that was never meant to be.
In my mind those double lines exist for two reasons:
1) To remind me of the faithfulness of a God who will never cease to endure the constant nagging of an inquisitive toddler or the trivial laments of a self-consicious tween. A God who told me I was beautiful long before I thought I needed to hear it from my peers. A God who bled, died, rose again, and reigns victorious. A God from whom “there is no shadow of turning.” I can continue moving forward because I know He has made a way and is preparing a place for when the road ends.
2) To remind me to make the most of it. I cannot erase those lines, nor what lies on the other side of them. My past is what it is, my future is what I make it. Will I be faithful to Jesus? Will I live as one filled with the power of the Holy Spirit? Those lines are boundaries. Not to be estranged from my past but to distinguish my past from my future. Those lines remind me that I am not to wallow in former mistakes, drown myself in all-consuming nostalgia or constantly re-live unimaginable pain. I am to see my past, remember it, and live differently because of it.
So while I was at first alarmed by those bright yellow lines in their immovable solidarity, I am becoming increasingly thankful as a result of them. Thankful when I’m given another Christmas with family, another date night with my husband, another phone conversation with an old friend, another day to give back.
So, reader, in your quick pursuit of brighter tomorrows and sweeter todays may you not ignore the memories patiently strolling on the other side of the road. Feel free to stroll with them now and again and may you return with renewed perspective and clearer purpose for your life that can only be discovered by moving forward into tomorrow.