Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | By: Zachary Bartels

"And it came to pass..."

Thanksgiving was three days ago. Before the Turkey and the stuffing commenced (yeah, that was a pun), I found myself at about 11:30 in the morning chasing my son around my in-laws’ back yard. He’d grown listless during the hour and a half car ride and, after a semi-traumatic encounter with a beagle puppy in serious need of some Ritalin, Calvin clearly needed to be taken outside for a spell. He ran, rolled, hopped, and criss-crossed the yard, labeling everything he thought he could identify (including about twenty items designated "wheel!"), before plopping down in some mulch to recharge and explore the dirt, stones, and bits of bark.

I sat down next to him, looked around contentedly, and said to him, "It’s a nice day, isn’t it?" It took a minute for me to realize how weird that sounded. It was gray and overcast, chilly (41˚ according to www.weather.com), and a little windy. A "nice day" if you live in Seattle. Or Liverpool. Or Michigan in November. And yet, I wasn’t being sarcastic. To me, it’s a nice day if you could conceivably get in a bike ride: if it’s not raining (much) or sleeting, not too hot or too cold. In fact, I like 41˚; the chill in the air makes me feel a little more alive.

And I don’t think it was just the contentment that comes with Thanksgiving Day talking. While people from the Deep South put on their giant Arctic parkas and Ushankas when the mercury dips into the low 40s, Cal and I were just sporting spring jackets (which I ditched when all the running and puffing sent my heart rate and body temperature north). Of course Southerners would say that they’re used to the heavy heat while we’re at home in the cold, but I don’t accept that (I mean, have they ever been to the U.P. on an August afternoon? Talk about heat…). After all, Southerners just go from air conditioned offices to air conditioned cars to air conditioned homes. I’ve seen them. They don’t own the heat the way we Michiganders own our cold.

As the seasons change and even as the snow flies, the colder whether doesn’t drive us inside, it calls many of us out to hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and just wandering around. It’s a fact that I walk my dog much more in December than I do in July. We don’t really mind the cold. And yet, for some reason, we never stop complaining about the weather. When it’s sunny and humid, we wish it was cool. When it’s snowy and freezing, we wish it was warm.

But on Thanksgiving, I was glad it was forty-one and overcast. And I was glad my son is a year and a half old. I often look forward to how fun it will be when he can talk and reason and we can have conversations about his interests, dreams, favorite movies, etc. When he’ll get my bad jokes and make his own. But right now, he’s more fun than he’s ever been. He’s learning a half-dozen words a day and finding humor in everything.

In a culture where the Christmas decorations start appearing the day after Halloween, where people are always looking forward to the next season, the next car, the next house, the next promotion, the next whatever, thinking that it holds the key to their happiness… it’s nice to enjoy just where you are and what you’ve got at the moment.

Mark Lowry (a Gospel singer and sometimes-comedian) has a great bit about this on one of his albums. It goes like this:

I've got a great Scripture for you. This is my favorite Scripture, my life verse. I love this verse. It says this: ‘And it came to pass...’

[An awkward silence, followed by laughter]

I love that verse, don't you? ‘And it came to pass’—it didn't come to stay. It came to pass! No matter where you are on that experience it will pass.

Hey, you young 18-year-old jocks with muscles in your earlobes: enjoy them! They will pass!

You older crowd, 45 and up, you've got gray hair now. Some of you've got blue hair. (You know who you are.) Some of you got no hair. Some of you went out and bought you some hair, didn't ya? Enjoy it! It will pass!

Hey, you may have arthritis living in your joints. It will pass. Either it will pass or you will pass. Either way, it came to pass.

No matter where you are in your life, it will pass. Did you have a bad year last year? Hold on, it will pass. Did you have a good year last year? Hold on, it will pass. No matter what you are going through, this too shall pass.

I see so many Christians pining away this life, waiting for the next. My friends, Jesus didn’t come to rescue you from this life. He came to give you life more abundant. He came to give meaning and purpose to the things in life that were once just empty routine. We now do them to the glory of God. Each day comes with its own blessings and its own challenges (sometimes one more than the other), but each day is a gift from God.

If anyone should be able to enjoy Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving, snow in winter, heat in August, and overcast gray in November, it’s a Christian. Paul the apostle wrote that he had learned to be content in all things. I often read that as "I’ve learned to put up with all things," but that’s not what he said. Whether he was shipwrecked on Malta or under house arrest in Rome, the Apostle seems to have embraced Mark Lowry’s life philosophy: Enjoy it. This too shall pass.

May we do the same.

Soli Deo Gloria,
         Pastor Zach

2 reader comments:

Steph Pavlov Eckerd said...

Thank you for sharing that, Zach. That was something, I think, I reeeeally needed to read. ♥

Jennifer Colin said...

It's funny, too, how people tend to wish for the future, then when it gets here, they long for the past. I agree with you. Be content in the NOW. It's a gift we've been given.