Our oldest child just turned 8 last week. Our youngest will be 7 months tomorrow; and our third will start pre-K the day after. It seems like someone is always hitting a milestone among our 5 children whether it is a birthday, a lost tooth, the next grade in school, a new skill learned or some other great accomplishment. It is truly God’s blessing to have so much to celebrate as a family.
The flip side of the festivity, though, is the marking of time. The more children we have and the more we have to celebrate, the faster the year seems to go. Perhaps the adage, ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,’ best describes this family phenomena. It is no secret that our life is short, but children have emphatically punctuated this truth!
A few years ago our oldest was starting kindergarten and our youngest at the time was an infant. Both girls were born just over 5 pounds. Both girls have summer birthdays. Both girls wore the same pink preemie pajamas for the majority of their first 3 months of life. So to hold my infant daughter in the pajamas that I had brought my oldest home from the hospital in as she was getting ready to get on a bus and head to school for the first time was profound. It was a visual realization of how time had flown while we anticipated and celebrated all of the exciting milestones that children achieve before they are school age. I remembered in that moment how I had snuck into my youngest sister’s room when I was about 9 to hold her when she was just a few months old. I remembered when my daughter was born looking at how my sister had grown. I remember whispering to my infant daughter, “Promise me that you won’t grow up as fast as Tanta Meg did.” And I whispered it to my second daughter and my third daughter and both of my sons. But the actuality is, they are growing up too fast for me and not fast enough for them. Our oldest is only 8, but that leaves my husband and I just 10 short years before we will have to send her off to college. Ten years seemed like eternity when I was 8, but like the blink of an eye now that I am almost 33.
Not long after sending the oldest to school, my Grandfather remarked that my son reminded him of my Father when he was a child. I can’t imagine how that must age you in your mind to see your great-grandson just 2 years old and your son over 50 years his elder with the same face, the same mannerisms. To see as an old man the child that you held and played with half a century earlier standing next to his grown-up double. But that’s how life is.
“Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble, He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.” Job 14:1-2
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ “James 4:13-15
Our time with our children is such a small portion of our own fleeting life… infinitesimal! It is so important to grasp this simple truth.
Our oldest’s birthday is in August, so as soon as summer break started in June she couldn’t wait for her birthday even though that meant the end of the summer that had just begun. As soon as she turned 7 she was planning her 8th birthday, and her 9th birthday. The day after Christmas all of the kids start desiring it to be next Christmas. It is easy as children to get wrapped up in the anticipation of the next big day and to wish their lives away on the way there. So we have started talking with ours about the importance of enjoying each day and living it for God, because we will never have that day again. They are young, but they have echoed back this thought and have attempted to live it out.
And as adults we all too often wish life away as well. We look so forward to the weekend that we rush the week, and so forward to summer break that we pine the Fall, Spring and Winter away. My own struggle with this became evident shortly after I returned to teaching. I lamented having to leave my children to return to work and loathed my job as a result. I couldn’t wait to get to the weekends and breaks so that I could just be home. But the second year something happened. One of my colleagues had a fatal relapse of cancer. Earlier that same year he had won the strongest teacher weightlifting competition, but after Christmas break he visited his doctor to complain of a backache. Two months later he was gone. I remember listening to co-workers counting down to the weekends while our colleague was dying and feeling like we were wishing the last few days of his life away. Then it hit me that I was wishing my own life away as well. I may not have been terminal in that moment, but as I once heard someone say, “We’re all terminal. No one gets out of this life alive.”
Yet we can no more hold onto the days of our lives than we can hold onto running water. More importantly than trying to freeze frame the fleeting days of our children’s and our own lives is to invest in their eternity.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:36-39
That day will be a day like any other until Christ breaks into it to call us home. But are we ready? Are our children ready?
“…in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…” 1 Corinthians 15:52
“Blink. See how fast that was? There wasn’t time to repent was there?”* And there wasn’t time to tell your family either. But there is right now. Get it right with God in this moment if you need to. Then help your family to find Him.
“…Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
How much more true this is among our own families.
*A quote from my Sunday School teacher, 8/26/2012