When we are young, we long for days to be older and be able to do what older people do. I remember being a kid and having to go to bed early when we had company over and so wishing to stay up just 5 more minutes and see what would happen. Why did it seem like I was missing out on things? Just to stay up a little longer and be able to do just a little bit more. Nowadays, I find myself wanting to go to bed earlier and doing less. Funny how that works. I will be 40 next month, and I already feel that nagging-complaining surfacing of wanting to sleep a bit more and do a bit less. Or maybe I’m just getting lazy.
I remember wishing to be older… for time to pass quickly so that I could do whatever I wanted and not be restricted by this silly thing called age. Funny, I don’t feel that way anymore. I remember my parents and grandparents when I was a boy, talking about fast time went, and how quickly the years flew by. I was 10 when my mom and dad were 40, and I remember it well. They seemed older than I feel now – but it does go by in a flash. My little girl will be 7 soon, I can’t believe it – it doesn’t seem real. Time does fly. I remember wishing to be older… but funny now that I am, I am not satisfied that I have arrived. I could stay up as late as I like and do whatever I want now – but I just don’t want to. I want to go to bed. When we are young we wish to be old and when we are old, we wish for youth.
I have never heard someone say “I am so excited about getting older.” A 55-year-old saying, “I can’t wait to be 60” or a 75-year-old saying: “Here I come 90.” We want the clock to stop, we want it to travel slower – we don’t want things to wrap up this quickly. We constantly feel the weight of time on our shoulders and no matter how far or fast we fun, it is relentless and constant…ticking by with its melodious taunt. tick-tock, tick-tock. We begin to understand that time and tide wait for no one.
But… there is another lesson secretly lurking in the shadows of this dismal defeat – that life is not always about the bigger and better. When we are young, we believe that everything is just out of reach; that when we reach the next pinnacle of our lives we will have “arrived” – but when we cross the threshhold of age… we see that we have been a little deceived. We were told we would be able to do more when we’re older…but the body begins to limit us. When we are young we wish for more things, and we wake up having them, and feel unsatisfied. We long for more noise, more money, more choices – and then we learn that what we really want is more time, more family, more peace. I see people all around who have the ‘let down’ look on their face. They have believed a lie. More is not always more.
Believe it or not, this mentality has entered church thinking also. We think bigger is always better in churches. That every year that brings more money and more people is a good year… but that is just not true. What if we measures success in ordinary life like that? Every year you buy more stuff and get more promotions are good years, right? Why then are people cleaning up the past in their homes and lives, why do people ‘down-size’ and simplify things as they age? I think it is because the accumulation of ‘stuff’ has not satisfied as it promised. There is an old saying that says: “measure your life by the things that money can’t buy, and then you will know how rich you are.” What matters most?
Sometimes our lives climb the ladder of success and ‘moreness’… but sometimes there are the leaner years, the moments when we are purging the things out of our lives. We have years are ascension and then years of decline. In order to have a full life – you need both. Life is not just about going up, sometimes it is about coming down a bit too. Don’t get me wrong, these times can often hurt, but that are secret blessings in disguise.
So when you go through…say… job loss. Well you have to reevaluate what matters. Do we need this big house, or both these cars? Do we need to shop here or there? I have never heard anyone say: “Let’s keep shopping but not pay the light bill…or…let’s keep the cell phones but lose the house.” We prioritize, we choose, we dedicate ourselves to the precious few things that actually matter. We burn the chaff and we harvest the wheat.
So if you are in decline…celebrate it. If this year was down from last, see the blessing. Stop ONLY chasing the bigger and better – sometimes life’s greatest blessings are found in the small, the less the simple. Find joy in small things…and ‘stuff’ will matter less…but then again ‘stuff’ really never mattered.