“This is such a unique season.”
The number of times I’ve said this since having a baby is nauseating. And while it’s true, just acknowledging the “uniqueness” of any given season doesn’t stop me from missing previous ones or imagining future ones. While we were at the beach, I found myself missing how easy it was before we had a baby. Then I would watch the older kids on the beach and think about how much fun it will be when Jessen is older. And then I would hold Jessen, wishing he would stay that tiny forever.
I think as humans, we like to talk about the “seasons” of life we go through because it feels less intimidating, less permanent. If we can label something as a season, it becomes less daunting – especially when it’s hard. But it’s also a way to appreciate the different stages of life, to assign meaning to our unique situation, to relate to others going through a similar phase. It’s a way to wrap our minds around the concepts of change, of time, of growth without getting too overwhelmed.
And yet, staying present in our current season is a struggle because we have the capabilities of remembering past seasons and imagining future ones. While it’s a gift to remember the past and dream about the future, those gifts can quickly become strongholds, even idols, if we use nostalgia as an escape from our present and our dreams as an excuse to wish away our present.
Escape: When we escape our present by living in the past, we allow nostalgia to rule us, remembering everything with rose-colored glasses. We tend to remember more of the good than the bad, which causes us to disproportionately see more of the bad than the good in our current season. When we idealize our past, we dwell on what isn’t and long for what was, instead of being grateful for the here and now. We give into the lie that says things will never be as good as they once were, even though Scripture tells us quite literally the opposite.
Excuse: While preparing for the future is good, it should never be an excuse to miss out on what’s right in front of us. When we live for the future, we give ourselves permission to be apathetic toward our present. We justify our complaints, using our aspirations as excuses for our ingratitude. We wish away our present in hopes of someday reaching a better, easier, more fulfilling future. We become content to just “make it through” instead of really trying to thrive. We rely on our own strength, ability and willpower to try to make our perfect future a reality.
The ability to celebrate what was and imagine what’s to come are indeed gifts, but only if we limit their power over us. Only if we recognize that our present is the future we once wanted and the past we’ll soon miss. Only if we take ownership of both our memories and our dreams to protect the gifts of our present.