I’ve been posting a lot of idyllic-looking pictures on Facebook lately. Beautiful, serene, charming, quiet photos of our new life in the country. The kind of life you read about in a magazine. And while there are certainly beautiful, serene, charming, quiet moments here, that’s not actually the norm.
No, many of our moments lately have been loud and messy. Sometimes crazed. The four small children who followed us here from the city are noisy, demanding, and uncivilized much of the time. And we are trying to keep them alive in new surroundings full of new and undiscovered dangers. (Like the open well we found not far from the boys’ new fort. A deep, narrow pipe with brackish water way down at the bottom, just big enough for a small child to tumble down. Seriously.) There are wasp stings and screams and prickery weeds. At least half of the quiet moments are a little too quiet … the kind of quiet that demands immediate investigation followed by surprise and outrage that they actually thought it was a good idea to [fill in the blank].
And, oh yes, it sounded like a greeeeat idea to add two large puppies to this picture (because who wants to potty-train just one at a time?) and ten chickens.
So, a more accurate snapshot of life here might be one of a smooth-as-glass pond with a gaggle of honking-loud geese about to make a crash-landing.
Sometimes I meet the sweet older ladies in Walmart who look into my haggard eyes and tell me to enjoy every moment before it’s gone. And then I read the blogs written by fellow moms who scoff and say to get real and admit that these years are more like a pile of poop with a little bit of glitter mixed in.
But you know, there’s something not quite right about either approach.
On the one hand, it’s tempting to think that if we can just manage to squeeze every last drop of delight out of these fleeting moments when our children are so snuggly and their tragedies are so cute and so easily resolved, we won’t feel that ache of loss when the little years are over. But I think the opposite is true: the more we’re able to experience the joy of these years, the more we’ll miss them when the swift river of time has left them far beyond reach.
Isn’t this true already of things past? There are days now that I feel deeply the loss of those quiet coffee-sipping, book-devouring moments I had in such abundance when I was single. And yes, I find myself looking into the longing eyes of still-single women and telling them to enjoy every moment. That doesn’t mean I’d trade today’s moments for yesterday’s, any more than I’ll want my self-supporting, self-wiping, manly sons to become adorable slobbery babies again. We ache because something we loved is lost to us. We ache because the beauty in this world isn’t eternal. We ache because many of the beauties of life are consecutive, not concurrent. Like seeds, some have to die to give life to others.
On the other hand, it’s also tempting to die a thousand deaths in my mind some days as I fail miserably in my efforts to have one literal minute in which the house stays clean and the children act like civilized beings. I want the world to acknowledge my martyrdom. I want justification for moving (rather, being moved) out of my home and into a quiet, padded cell where I can just sleep for a few days and no one expects me to do anything coherent. I want to believe the difficult moments are really just imposed suffering so I don’t have to live like they’re a blessing.
The truth is, every moment is priceless because every moment is literally breathed into us by a loving and purposeful God who wastes nothing. But, like grapes, some moments are best enjoyed years after they’ve been stomped to a pulp and tightly bottled in a dark cellar somewhere to ferment.
So, in case I’ve given the impression that we, like Elijah, were invited early into heaven … well. Not quite. We do love it here, for a lot of little reasons, but we are sustained day in and day out because we know this is where God wants us right now. We know he’s turning all the moments, nice and not nice, into something wonderful.