Milestones, in my case, the start of a new decade, have a way of turning your head, shifting your gaze to the path you’ve come down, identifying the steps that brought you to the present. The good is clearer, but so are regrets, and changing directions seems little harder. I don’t know why I didn’t have these thoughts last year when I thought I was turning 30… I don’t know, it wasn’t a big deal then, but it’s been a different year. This year, I approached my birthday with a heavier heart. And while responsibilities, physical pains, and experiences do make me feel older, I think it's more mental. 2014 has been full of things in life not working out as expected. Not always disappointments, but not always pleasant either. Moves and jobs haven't panned out. Plans and hopes have been thrown out the window and smashed on the pavement. Hurts and trials have required opportunities for love and forgiveness. We've walked alongside friends who buried their precious daughter. We watched others lose loved ones to recklessness, sickness and unexplainable reasons. More than ever I'm aware of the broken world we live in, and the destruction of sin around us and through us. If you take an even bigger step back and consider the suffering that occurs on a global scale, it's truly overwhelming. It makes me want to throw up my hands in a teary mess.
We often sings songs at church that express an anticipation of heaven, such as the Horatio Spafford hymn, It Is Well, which has this verse:
"And Lord haste the day when our faith shall be sight.
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul."
In years past, I often had the thought, "This is weird. Does anyone realize what are we signing? Haste the day? Are we asking to die sooner? Um. Heaven is probably going to be good, but I kind enjoy my life too. God, don't really hasten it too much, or maybe just wait until after I get to do more cool things."
I think I get it now though. I don't enjoy life less - on the contrary, I'm seeing how fast it flies and am doing my best to treasure it. More and more though, I'm growing in my anticipation of heaven. I'm ready for a world that isn't broken, that isn't full of injustices and hurts. Ready to reunite with loved ones. Ready to "see in full" what is only faith now. The truth in Philippians 1:21-23 resounds more clearly: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me... I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
Horatio Spafford wrote that hymn, It Is Well, after terrible tragedy struck his family in 1873. According to Wikipedia (also what I learned from Adventures in Odessey), his son died of scarlet fever, he experienced financial ruin during the Chicago Fire, and then the rest of his children died in a shipwreck. Yet he wrote that hymn while making the same voyage. Such circumstances contradiction the notion that anything would be “well.” However, I love the reminder that even when my world is not well, my soul can be, because as the hymn says, “Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.” That truth still holds.
So… happy birthday to me! All my friends are now glad I didn’t have a party to celebrate. Can you imagine if I had been called upon to make some kind of speech? I’m only thirty and am all doom and gloom and sound ready to check out – and I’ve got what I hope are decades to go! I’m sure I’ll have some kind of gems to share about failing bodies and the deplorable state the world is heading to in a few years. But seriously, whether you are older or younger, maybe you know what I'm talking about. The sure things in life are death and taxes, though "trials" could be added to the list as well, right? Yet not despair.
Milestones not only give you pause to reflect on the past, but they also create fresh hope for the future. I think this next decade is going to be awesome as I watch my nieces and nephews grow up, experience life with my best friend, and insert some other happy cliché about the unknown here. If I'm honest, I know the future will probably hold more hurts too, but with it, the truth that "It is well."