It’s almost my 30th birthday. I thought I would feel more concerned about this. I’m a little (very) worried about how I look as I age, but that’s just my usual unending amounts of vanity. People have been telling me for years that my 30’s will be better than my 20’s, that I will relax and feel more confident and at ease with myself. And my 30th coming a few weeks after giving birth to my third baby feels right, somehow. I’m thirty and I have three tiny kids, and this is my life right now. I can’t yet attest to this time being better than my twenties, but I will say that I have to agree about finding more ease with myself, which I’ve though about a lot lately. Why do I feel more relaxed, safer in my positions and relationships? Maybe I’m just more tired now. Or maybe I don’t have time for the angst that ruled my 20’s, in between tending the litany of needs that a 3 year old, 2 year old and a newborn present every moment of the day. But no: it’s more than that. I’m not (just) tired or preoccupied. I have found a new strand of peace in my life as I get older, and it’s mostly wrapped into this little phrase:
Now is not the time for that.
These seven words are a filter through which I refine my time. I whisper them when I need reminded the brevity of my life. This is it. This is all the time I get. I don’t want to waste it being dissatisfied, or fearful, or annoyed, or stuck.
There is such a freedom when I allow that phrase its full meaning:
Now is not the time for that.
Because when I recognize what this is not the time for, all sorts of space opens up for what this is the time for. Do you see what I mean? So often, I fall into the trap of discontent, a willful dissatisfaction with present circumstances, difficult relationships, disappearing dreams…I pine for what isn’t mine to hold, and lose sight of what’s filling my hands already.
Imagine the Israelites, slaves in Egypt for so many years. Generations of slaves giving birth to another line of slaves; what could they do with that reality? And then: a rescue. An impossible escape through gaping sea water, and a walk into the wilderness. For forty years. Forty years of wandering a desert. Some of these wanderers hated the desert enough to ask if they could go back to Egypt. Back to slavery. Maybe God had rescued them, but for what? Where was the new life? Why must they eat manna when they were promised more?
There is a difference between properly grieving what we wanted so badly, and ignoring what we have instead. We ought to grieve. We ought to process what we have lost or what we never really had or what we wished to have happened by now; it’s good and right to grieve these things. It’s important. But then, we keep walking. We look up at an open sky, that bright blue expanse of possibilities, the horizon falling on promised lands, and we keep walking. We give space for what this time is not, and embrace what this time is for.
For me, this is not the time for restful nights. But stars in the sky- this is the time to memorize the weight of my newborn daughter as I rock her in my arms and sing her to sleep. This is not the time to sit down at my desk at the same hour each day and write until I’m through. This is the time that I gather the stories we are writing in this opening act of our family, so full and sweet. We are building a family, building a narrative that will guide our kids for the rest of their lives, and I want to remember it. So I write in the dark, in my bed full of babies in the middle of the night, at my kitchen table for a few free moments, in stolen afternoons in coffee shops. This is not the time for me to stop dreaming. Or gathering friends. Or learning who I am and what I have to offer. Sometimes I yearn to be alone, to roam and wander and build something for myself; yes, sometimes I grieve the space to be on my own. It might be different for you. Right now might be a time of extreme quiet, or painful questions, or more ends than beginnings. And you might wish for something else. You might long for something to come faster, or to slow down. But listen:
Now is not the time for that.
Now is the time to learn the difference between manna and honey, and why they are both enough. Now is the time to learn the art of dreaming without grumbling. Now is the time to say, “Yes, Lord. Thank you for the sun on my face and the expanse of the sky, for the firm ground under my feet and the steady work of my hands. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
He is the God of the desert.
He is the God of the Promised Land.
Both. He is both.
This is the great paradox of the God I love: That He asks me to be content with manna, all the while leading me into dreams I could never even imagine. Can I allow this tension in my life? Can I be a dreamer, delighted by what may come, and yet – stay satisfied in my present moment?
Because honestly, sometimes I can barely tell where I’m walking. Is this the dream? Is this the wilderness? Why do some days feel like both?
Now is not the time for that. I want this filter to sort my days for me. I want to teach it to my children. What is this the time for, and what it is not? On a micro and a macro level, this mindfulness sets an intention that changes how I behave. Changes the way I make choices, big and small. Is this a time for movement, or a time to be still? Is this a time to make a blanket fort, or a time to be alone and write? Is this a time to speak, or a time to listen? A time to eat, or a time to wait? Time does not control me. I control my time. One decision at a time.
I’m going to enter the next year of life with this stamp on my heart- this creed on my lips. I worship the God of abundance, of dreams, of kingdoms and victories and grand hope. And I worship the God of wilderness, of waiting and watching and praying through every single moment.
The sweetness of honey. The quiet of manna. What joy to remember that yes, absolutely, both.
He is both. And He is good.
I can rest there. Happy birthday to me, happy 30 years of painful learning to me, happy one more day of walking this path, to all of us.