I don’t watch The Office (reasons for which you’d laugh at me), but I find myself intrigued by a line spoken by a character named Andy near the end of the series:
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
What do you make of this? In me it evokes deep senses of sentiment and longing. When I read this quote, I inevitably think of “the good old days” of my 22 year past. I was homeschooled with my brothers until I went to high school, so I think about the times we’d pretend to be wizards at Hogwarts, casting spells at each other with knitting needles, or the times we’d pretend to battle with lightsabers that were really Home Depot paint stirs, or when we’d flat out wrestle on Mom and Dad’s bed. Those were good days, but I didn’t know it at the time.
Since those days, I’ve been fortunate to have plenty of pockets of times that I now consider the good old days (saying that makes me feel like I’m seventy years old). Whether it was growing up on a stage at the LA Opera house, or traveling the world with my choir, or loving my high school and my pole vaulting team, God has certainly given me many experiences to be thankful for. As you go on in life, however, especially when you’ve been through harder times, I believe you grow in your ability to notice a present moment as something to cherish and appreciate. Here I’d disagree with Andy—I think if you are perceptive you’ll know when you’ve got something good going on.
Most recently for me, I knew while I was at Wheaton that those were good days, and I wasn’t eager to leave them. For instance, we had a Fall Break trip (pictured above) where the whole track team would go up to the Northwoods of Wisconsin for a couple days and stay in an old hunting lodge by a lake, complete with no heat in the middle of nowhere, but the company was fantastic. Around us the leaves of the trees were beautifully vibrant in the fall sunlight. The sprint kids and the field kids would string up hammocks and sleep outside in the cold, under the brightest of constellations, with the crackling of the campfire serenely lulling us to slumber. When else do you get to have all your closest friends around you to just laugh, play games, sing worship songs, sit by the fire, and not be distracted by technology or school?
While at Wheaton, I anticipated the future where cherished community wasn’t so present, where mentors weren’t so easily accessible, where good food wasn’t so convenient (for all those who complain about Saga, just know that it’s not long after graduation when you begin to appreciate our “dear” dining hall). The reason I could perceive this at that time was because I had worked and lived in places that are antithetical to the life-giving Wheaton way of living.
I’m in one of those places now, a place of solitude and aloneness. It’s not a bad thing. It’s part of life. Many people who are in transition phases, like other peers my age, who are finding and settling into their “real lives,” are here as well. I am conducting physics research at one of our country’s national laboratories, and I find that I don’t have the same relationships with other people here. No one here really “knows” me, and since I’m only here temporarily, I don’t feel particularly compelled to plug in. On occasion, I’ll catch up and chat with dear friends on the phone or FaceTime, but it’s obviously not the same as living with them.
So I find that I’m “missing” something, and at first I thought I missed Wheaton, but now I don’t think that’s what it is. I think I miss the environment: not having to try to make friends, friendships just developed over time; not having to introduce yourself, but simply being known by those around you; not having to purposefully seek learning, but have lessons poured into daily like a firehose. I long for that kind of place.
It makes sense. Humans are relational beings, which isn’t hard to see in the Bible.
- We are created in God’s image, and he himself is a relational being: the Father in relationship with the Son (and vice versa), the Son in relationship with the Spirit (and vice versa), the Spirit in relationship with the Father (and—you guessed it—vice versa. I’m just trying to avoid trinitarian heresies okay?).
- The first thing that wasn’t good in creation was for man to be alone.
- The greatest and second greatest commandments are to love God and love neighbor.
We are meant to be in relationship with others.
So yes, I long to be back in that environment with those kinds of relationships again. This causes me to think about the other things I notice myself longing for: track season, In-n-Out, the ocean, the mountains, my Taylor 416ce guitar. But do you realize what’s not on that list? The new heavens and the new earth. Christ’s return when we will have inseparable and eternal present communion with Christ, our wonderful creator, our magnificent Lord, and [who should be] our deepest love.
It’s at this point where this discursive article gets to its point. I say that I’m a Christ follower, that I have devoted my life to him, and surely, many who know me would testify to these claims, but when I introspectively examine the contents of my soul, my longings, I find that I get distracted by all the good things that this life has to offer, and so I fail to remember what it’s all about—Christ’s redemption of creation which is manifested more and more daily as his Kingdom takes more and more ground, culminating in his ultimate return and triumph over all the powers and principalities of this world, when creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.
Why have I not been longing for this? Probably because I’ve been so focused on my future on earth: jobs, grad schools, athletic development, and relationships with people. Probably because I’ve been so focused on myself, and not God and others. Probably because I don’t always choose to pursue God in everything. Probably for a lot of reasons. But with God’s help, this can change.
Read these last bits slowly:
Every single Christian ought to keep in the forefront of his or her mind what is to come, not so that we ignore what’s in front of us, but so that we are better stewards of what’s in front of us. We must always keep in mind the worship of God, the bigger picture of his redemptive kingdom work, and the reality of his ultimate physical return in all that we do. With the help of the Spirit who illuminates, we need to refine and refine and refine our vision of what’s to come so that we long for it daily. Christians need to pray and yearn for those days where there will be no tears, no pain, no death, and no mourning because we will be with our Creator and God whose kingdom will have no end.
So, reader, long for what you long for on earth in this present life—deep and meaningful relationships, catching up with a loved one over coffee, a perfectly cooked steak paired with excellent red wine, a relationship with a significant other (*audience gasps* …yes I just went there)—but above all, above all (repeated and italicized for emphasis), long for the full realization of God’s intended purposes for creation which is undivided and eternal communion with him.
Can you see it?
Can you imagine what it will be like?
I begin to envy John. I begin to envy prophets of the scriptures who have seen glimpses of it.
Andy says he wishes there were a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them. God says that the best days aren’t here yet, but once they come, they will never end.