Once upon a time I was just like everybody else…

Perhaps I’m getting off on the wrong foot, here.

Once upon a time I didn’t think about what I did, or at least I didn’t let myself think about any of it.  When we let the laundry pile up, though, eventually we are going to actually have to do it; or else we will have no clothes, and that’s just not an option.  I suppose you could just try buying new clothes to replace the dirty ones, but eventually that well will run dry.  Eeven for the rich and famous.  Inevitably, we will all find ourselves at the washing machine.  Ah yes, the great inescapable washing machine of the mind…of life.  I have obviously gotten carried away with this analogy, but the point is that I would refuse to think about certain things until necessity mandated that I do so.  I eventually had to think about them because they were piling up and room had to be made. And at the risk of beating a dead horse, it really was very much like the process of doing laundry.  By hand.  Each piece, each thought, would have to be dragged up and down that washboard, scraping my knuckles and burning my hands on hot water and soap.  And then I would have to wring out as much water as possible, sweating from the effort.  Give them a good shake, and spread them around on the grass to dry.  Each piece, each thought, needed handling because that’s what the process requires.  So when I did (think about everything), think about the different things I was (or wasn’t) doing, I would have to shrug my shoulders and say that in the end I was willing to make the trade.

Life really is all about barter and trade, isn’t it?

And laundry.

I just don’t think there’s any way around it.

The part that I really struggle with is that I don’t regret any of it.  I haven’t had traumatizing results from the choices I’ve made.  Surely I’ve embarrassed myself, and maybe even experienced some shame now and again, but nothing terrible happened.  Nothing that sticks to my guts like paper mache glue.  I never woke up and groaned, or cried, or had to hide from anyone.  At the same time, I knew that there were certain implications from what I was doing.  I don’t know how I knew, or why, but I just did.  And I discovered that we can’t just do whatever we want to do and not accumulate some baggage from it all.  And if you don’t like the word ‘baggage’ you can just use the word ‘memories’.

I’m trying to make what I’m saying here universal.

Although, eventually, and soon, I’m going to have to start narrowing it down.

The thing is that we are just so concerned with making so many memories.  It’s hard for us to realize that sometimes making memories is just not going to wind up for the best.  I mean, I should have certain memories with only my husband.  But I don’t.  I have them with other people, and sometimes my brain gets confused, and something that was supposed to be sacred has been diluted.  Faces kind of blur, and sometimes I just don’t know which face to put with which scenario.  And that sucks.  Because it’s not fair to my husband.  And he says the exact same thing about me, and about his memories.  Even though I have never had a traumatic experience with someone else, even though I don’t really, in my heart of hearts, regret those experiences; I do, with all of my heart, regret that they cheapen what I actually have right now.  My forever.  The only way to not regret the incompleteness is to not have taken away from my forever to begin with, and that means to have not made those memories.  And that means I should have chosen, from the beginning, to say ‘no’.  Yes, even when I wanted to say ‘yes’.

But it’s not that serious, you may say.

Actually, it is.

Why can’t you just forgive yourself, you may suggest.

It’s not about forgiving myself.  Sometimes we absolutely have to do that.  But I don’t hate myself for what I did.  Like I said, I don’t even have regrets.  Instead, I have to get to the bottom of it.  I have to figure out why it’s not something I can just shrug off and act like it didn’t matter.  I think I have.  You see, it all goes back to the barter and trade.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is nothing that compares to those really good times we have had.  I’m sure you all know what I mean when I say “good times”.  I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with your own good times.  I could try to paint you this really romanticized version of mine, and I could even make you wish that you had been there too.  Or, you could immediately begin to feel that pull, that itch, to feel that way again.  I think this must be what drug addicts feel.  Being with other people, to the limits of our mind, soul, and body, is the most incredible thing on the planet.  I can’t try to convince someone that partying isn’t actually the greatest time you will ever have.  There’s simply no point, because it’s a moot point.  And for those of you that may not know, a moot point is the same as saying that something is obsolete.  For instance, I could erase everything that I just wrote about how charming experiences of the body can be, and we would be right back to where we started.  For the academic, we could call this a presupposition: a self-evident truth.  Which means that we both walked onto this scene already understanding that the stimulations of the senses is perhaps the loudest siren of them all.

I’m going to take a step back from all of these words and simply tell you about a conversation that I just had with someone.

This someone has been one of my closest friends for years now.  We lived together when we were young, in our late teens and early twenties, and we spent our weekends doing whatever we wanted.  I would like to assure you that our pastimes would probably qualify as mild as mild could be, but to us they were racy and thrilling, and I think that’s what it’s really about.  Tonight, though, we were talking again about how badly we sometimes want those weekends back.  I quote, “I just want to feel that way again.  To feel that cool again.  Being that way just made me feel so cool.”

Of course the fact that we were talking about how “cool” we used to be will immediately resonate as “lame” to a lot of you, and I get that.  I’m a little mortified to even be sharing this at all.  But it’s the truth, and the truth lends itself to what I’m trying to say.

As we talked, we began to dissect this problematic concept.

This is why it was problematic: we are Christians.

That’s right, I said it.  And not just Christians, but truly Bible-believing, on-fire-for-God kind of Christians.  We normally talk about the really deep stuff, albeit occasionally peppered with the lament about how uncool we have become because we are almost thirty and no longer smoke, drink, or sleep around.  Even just a half an hour before what I’m telling you, we were talking about demons and how spiritual warfare works.  It was just as surprising for us that we could go from ruminating over eternal matters to the exact opposite.  It was frustrating, when we got right down to it.  What is wrong with us, we began to ask each other.  How do our hearts pull at these desires when we know where we belong, are happy with it, and that those desires have no place there?

So we began to dissect it all.

And I do believe we got to the bottom of it.

Do any of you remember the wisest man who ever lived?  His name was Solomon.  So of course you won’t actually remember him, because he was around in the ancient days.  You probably know who I’m talking about, anyway.  Most people, even those with no religious ties or affiliations, could suggest that Solomon (or at least, “some guy from the Bible”) was the wisest man who ever lived.  Just the fact that we are still talking about him lends itself to the statement.  Back in his day, people came from all over the world to listen to what he had to say.  Nowadays, people try to say that Solomon wasn’t all that.  That people in Egypt were saying the same things that Solomon was saying.  What we fail to realize, though, is that those rulers from Egypt were going to listen to Solomon, and then referring to his teachings in their own writings.

One of my favorite things to talk about is the Bible, and how it holds an answer to every question, proof to every argument, and absolute validity.  We just really have to study it to get all that figured out, and most people just don’t.  Study it, that is.  I understand how hard it is.  Which is probably why I like it so much.  Since it is my favorite topic of discussion, though, I could easily digress at this point, so I’m going to reign it back in.  Just a little bit.

I mention this ancient man because even in those ancient days he spent most of his life following goosebumps and good times.  You can see what he means when he says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  When his time was drawing to a close he began to panic a little bit.  And he wondered how it was possible to panic: he was the wisest man who ever lived, the absolute richest, and he had probably done everything that there was to be done (he was married to one thousand women, for starters).

Solomon began to realize that God had set eternity in our hearts.

Who on this earth doesn’t want to live forever?

Please don’t introduce the argument of “everyone who’s ever committed suicide”.  I’ve been a part of that camp.  I intimately know what it is like to want to die, and even then I could have told you that it wasn’t that I wanted to die, it was that I wanted life to be worth living.  This, also, becomes a moot point.

The very ebb and flow to everything reveals that there is a purpose.  This is probably where a lot of brains start hurting, but I’m going to encourage you to let the throb set in.  You see, the balance to life is the proof that there is purpose.  Rain waters the plants, which evaporate the rain back into the clouds, which will rain back down on them again and cause them to grow.  Birds drop seeds as they fly, which grow into vegetation that will feed the birds, who will drop the seeds when they eat or take the food back to their homes, and more vegetation will grow.  Can you believe that if nature has a purpose, how much more do we?

We need to talk about the big things of life, because life is big.  I mean, we’re talking about life here, people.  We are talking about us.  You and me and our families, our children, our grandchildren, our sisters and brothers and dearest friends and even Bobby Hatmaker who rings you up at the grocery store.  Did you know that it is now generally accepted that a fetus in utero is one hundred percent a living person?  Unfortunately, it took some serious technology to get us this far, but there is no denying that an unborn baby is just as alive as a newborn baby.  Even pro-choice accepts this dynamic; their stand persists in choice.

Okay.  I can work with choices.

What do our choices do, though?  Right?  Otherwise I wouldn’t care about what I did back in the day, and I certainly wouldn’t care about what Solomon had to say about what he did back in his day.  The fact of the matter is that a vast majority of people actually don’t care about their choices, in a legitimate way.  I think it has to do with this prevailing idea that we only live once. YOLO, anyone?  So this is where I’m going to dig back in.

Remember, let it throb.

It’s this concept of only living once.  It’s this drive to never stop experiencing.  It’s this obsession with not wanting to miss out on a golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Do you see what I’m saying?  I’ve got to spend this money, I’ve got to go out while I’m young, I’ve got to take this trip, I’ve got to go deeper into debt, I’ve got to abuse my body, at the very least I’ve got to think about how I only live once and there is just so freaking much to do.  Even worse, there is so much I’m going to miss out on.  Am I right?  It doesn’t matter if we go to Ireland this year; next year we are going to want to go to Japan.  It doesn’t matter if we got our new leather jacket; next month we are going to get that fabulous pair of boots.

Did you know that you can only wear one outfit at a time?

I’m being serious.  It doesn’t matter how many pairs of clothes you have, you can only wear one at a time.  Said what?  It’s true.  It really is.  How about this: the less clothes that you own, the less laundry you will have to do.  Remember my big schpiel about laundry, and about how our memories are like laundry and it piles up but we still have to do that dirty laundry?  We still have to take them all out and handle each piece?  And sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard we scrub, we’ve still got a spaghetti stain in the middle of our favorite shirt.  (Am I the only one who would probably still wear it?)

Don’t run away from this.  My brain is throbbing too.

We all want to live forever.

I’m not going to lie.  It is a downright sacrifice to not do certain things anymore.  Especially since I know what it’s all like.  This is why I encourage you to not make those memories in the first place.  It’s better to just not know.  It really is.  I can back that up by saying I don’t need to accumulate these generic life experiences (in short, I don’t need to experience life the way that everyone else is), because I am completely secure in the fact that I may die one day, but I will absolutely live forever.

There is no urgency in me.  At least not when it comes to me.

I have happily made the trade.  It really, truly is a trade.  I have willingly, with all of my heart, traded in some of the more popular pastimes in exchange for the care and security that only God can provide.  Even though I experience those twinges of nostalgia, the phantom itch, if you will, I have no worries.  I think about people living for their weekends, and the amazing parties, and I understand how they are feeling.  I felt that way before too.  Then I sigh, and feel some sadness, because when the rubber meets the road those people are on their own.  They have those deep-seated worries that come with being our own god.  Everything.  And I mean everything, is on their shoulders.  The goings-on in the world make no sense, the reality of bills that need paid are ever-present, the crossing of the fingers that the house won’t burn down, that you won’t get cancer…  These people are completely on their own.

And so I breathe a sigh of relief.

Maybe I don’t get a buzz anymore.  Not from a substance, not from a stranger.  I have peace.  My house can burn down and I know that I will be provided for.  I could get cancer, but I know my place in eternity is secure.  This is what I have traded for, and I am good with it.  I am more than good with it.  I am so, so, so grateful.

Thank You, God.