When my husband deployed for the first time, our son had just taken his first steps and celebrated his first birthday. Familiar with loss, but not of this kind, deployment dealt me a new overwhelm to navigate.
What do we military spouses do to get through a deployment? Make some fun countdowns they say.
I started with two glass vases placed on our fireplace mantle. On the left, over 270 plastic green army men filled the vase. On the right sat an empty vase which would become the holding place for the army men representing the days we “successfully” made it through.
Not long into the deployment, I happened upon a cute chalkboard countdown sign at a local craft fair, I snatched it up. I placed the long piece of wood on the mantle in between the two vases. Day by day we moved army men from one vase to the other, and every evening I updated the blanks on the wooden sign, “___ Days Left Until Daddy’s Home.”
I lived life as a countdown, impatiently waiting for the deployment to be over and my husband to return.
A few years ago, I threw that cute sign in the garbage.
It came to represent a mindset I could no longer afford to operate from. Waiting for the day when “things would get better,” a day that wasn’t even promised to come, kept me stuck and forgetting how to live.
I wanted my husband home and my family unit back under the same roof. I wanted out of the sleepless nights and single parenting and worry and loneliness. I just kept waiting for the “one day” in a way that had me wanting out of the “today.” The countdown mentality kindled a desperate discontent in my heart. I was missing out on my life waiting. And the thing I was waiting for, I knew had the very real possibility of not happening. I’d lived the reality of “things” not getting “better” before.
We all have a tendency to do this. We wait for life to get better, go better, feel better. We wait for the “one day.”
Right now we’re waiting for vaccines, for life to “return to normal,” for the job offer, for the day we’re reunited with a loved one, for the vacation, for the relief … You can name your own waiting here.
And what we hear in response around us is this message: “Just wait. Things will get better.”
But this is positivity without roots leading us to a place that won’t sustain us but further drains us and sweeps us away when the next stormy gust blows into our lives.
Yes, there is biblical hope that one day things will be better and all wrongs will be made right (to paraphrase C.S. Lewis referencing the promises of Revelation 21:4). However, the well-meaning encouragement to wait for things to get better in this way doesn’t usually have this truth at the center OR we see this truth becomes used as a means through which our current difficulties are bypassed. And I am as guilty as anyone of living this way and in saying these things.
Waiting for “better” is not wrong or bad, but on its own, it doesn’t help us wait, hope, or live well in our present circumstances. It can lead to passivity and all sorts of problematic risings in our hearts. This is what happened to me.
There is living to be done in the waiting—whether we’re waiting on earthly or eternal things.
But so often we get stuck living or waiting, not doing knowing how to do both.
I needed to crawl out of the posture that had me pushing and wishing away my present circumstances and learn to embrace life as it was while also waiting in hope.
Throwing away the countdown sign was a visceral representation of me throwing away something hindering me from living the life God had given me.
We can embrace this day as it is. We can find life in the depression, in the anxiety, in the grief, in the longing. We don’t have to wait for daybreak to know the light is there. We can find life and light even in the dark moments because of the Spirit of light living in us.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have an Advent calendar hanging in my living room right now. My children and I move a small red heart made of felt each day as we prepare and anticipate celebrating the day Love came down for us. We are counting down the days, waiting for Christmas. This countdown is good for our hearts.
We can LIVE in ANTICIPATION.
We can LIVE and ANTICIPATE.
We need not wait idly or passively by for the thing we anticipate to happen and only then start our living.
We WAIT and LIVE.
We do both.
Let us be careful so as to not put our lives on hold in our waiting for the better, the answer, the relief, the thing.
Let us keep living. Here. Now. As we wait and hope in Him.
Questions for Reflection:
Do you find yourself waiting for things to get better and struggling to live in the now?
How can you show up right where you are right now–for the Lord, yourself, others?
How can you experience the Lord now? What can you do to draw near and notice?
How are you encountering the Lord?
How are you stewarding what you have?
How are you living in light of being loved right where you are?