At some time or another, every person has the following, ground-shifting realization: I am not a kid anymore. I’m an adult. It’s time to let go and grow up.
This is the story of when that happened to Ike and me.
It was a hot summer night and I was 8 months pregnant with Isaac. We wanted to rent a movie, and we decided on a teen rom com that came out when I was in high school: She’s All That. Ike had never seen it, so I thought it would be fun to relive the late 90’s for a night.
In case you’ve never seen She’s All That, it’s a Pygmalion-esque story starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook. He was the cool jock, she was the art geek. He bet his friends he could make her popular, and, you guessed it, he fell in love with her in the process.
The senior class in She’s All That was the same year as mine, which is one of the reasons I love it. Watching the film always takes me back to that season of my life, which is a nostalgia I normally enjoy.
That night, I didn’t. That night I watched Prinze and Cook on screen–so young, so beautiful, their whole lives before them–and I remembered when I was young and carefree, when my whole life was ahead of me.
And it all seemed so…far away.
As the movie came to an end, and Prinze and Cook danced under a starry sky, I sat there dumbfounded. It was like my youth had evaporated before my eyes.
And I wasn’t alone. While the credits began to roll, Ike sat next to me in complete silence. The realization had hit us both like a ton of bricks: we weren’t that young anymore. I definitely wasn’t that skinny anymore (hello pregnancy!). Worst of all, we were no longer the kids in the story. We were the parents.
I don’t know if everyone is as undone by that identity shift as we were. Perhaps we were clutching our early adulthoods too tightly. But I kid you not, we went to bed that night without a word between us, totally depressed. And we haven’t watched that movie since.
I thought about that experience over the weekend as I talked with a friend about the story of Lot’s wife. Lot’s wife is famous for one giant mistake. She and her family were spared the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah on one condition: leave, and do not look back. But Lot’s wife couldn’t help herself. As she heard the destruction of her former life behind her, she “looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Gen. 19: 26)
The story of Lot’s wife has always been a powerful reminder to me, that living in the past leads to death in the present. It’s a reminder I need right now.
Now that I’m pregnant with my second son, I’ve found myself looking back again with that same wistfulness. Except this time I’m not missing my teen years. This time, I’m missing my pre-kid years.
It’s not that I would change anything about my life. I love being a mom and I love my son like crazy. But some days I wish we could go on a date without calling a babysitter. Some days, I wish I could spend my time however I want. Some days, I want to use the bathroom without a child banging on the door, twisting the knob back and forth, and eventually forcing his way in.
Some days, it’s easy to look back on the past and wish that I was still living it.
But the story of Lot’s wife reminds me that living in the past, or holding onto the past too tightly, is folly. Because living in the past prevents me from truly living in the present. The more time I spend looking back on the things I’ve lost, instead of the things I have, the more I waste the gifts of today.
And before I know it, Isaac will be 17 and his toddler years will also be in my past…as will his cute squishy cheeks, his charming lack of social boundaries, and the way he says “twuck” instead of truck.
So the way I see it, I have two choices: I can either keep looking back, or I can enjoy the gifts of this season. I can miss out on the treasures of right now, or I can suck the marrow out of every moment. One day, I can look back wistfully on these toddler years, or I can drink in my son’s yummy smell, tiny feet, toothy grin, floppy run, and big personality, today.
In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus exhorts us not to worry about tomorrow, and it strikes me how difficult it is for the human soul to find contentment in the present. We are either yearning for the past, or straining toward the future. Both, we think, can offer us something better than what we have right now.
But God knew this about us, which is what makes the gospel so amazing. Our lives are book-ended by the past resurrection and the future hope of glory, which means our pasts and our futures are covered in Christ. In other words, the gospel sets us free to have life right now.
I’ll try to remember that the next time I watch She’s All That, or the next time I catch myself day dreaming about the freedom and quiet of the past. I could chew on yesterday’s spoiled manna, or, I can feast on the satisfying bread of today–the bread of life.