Today we began our last thirty days in Southern California — our last month at The Master’s College, Student Life, Placerita Baptist Church, and Oak Manor. My last day of work is July 1, and the big truck will be pulling out of the lot that same weekend, destined for Louisville, Southern Seminary, and the beginning of the next season of our lives.
And I noticed the other day that the hills are beautiful.
They’ve always been beautiful — patchy waves of ridges lined up all out of sorts, like a rag-tag army lying around between battles, sometimes wearing brown desert camo, sometimes dressed in green, but always giving each other enough breathing room to create the canyons that give this valley character.
It’s just that you don’t notice them the same way during the daily grind. They get taken for granted, the way “taken for granted” gets taken for granted. They blend into the rush-hour commute, the trip to the grocery store, the discipleship outing. Perhaps it’s good for good things to come to an end, if only to remind us of how good they’ve been, and how good the next things will be.
Too much of life is lived with a ceiling. Not the eight-foot spackled ceiling at home or the ten-foot fluorescent-lighted ceiling at the office, but a ceiling of relentless schedules and self-made concerns and worldly burdens and unrealistic expectations. We want perfection and performance and production and prototypes and professionalism, or at least a satisfactory semblance of the same. We want rhythmic, alliterated, predictable lives.
So we forget that our kids are young, that our friends are precious, that singleness is freedom, that marriage is freedom together, that memories are gold, that bike rides are cleansing, that laughter’s the best medicine, and that the roses might just provide the therapy we need if we would just stop to smell them. Even our rolling circumstances and our seasonal challenges are used by God to splash color onto lives that would otherwise meander along the canvas in monochromatic monotony.
This is why, after a long and full life, an old wise man told us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Growing up with three brothers in an old two-story house in the green hill country of northeastern Oklahoma, you learned quickly that you only had a brief window of time at dusk to catch lightning bugs. A little too light outside and you can’t see them light up. A little too dark and you can’t see them between blinks. But if you get it right, get a bead on one right after a flash, and kneel down just enough to see its black silhouette against the darkening Oklahoma sky — you can hold wonder in your hands. It’s all about timing — and turning off the TV.
But as marvelous as a lightning bug is to an eleven-year-old, and as marvelous as an eleven-year-old catching a lightning bug is to his parents, you can only bottle it up for so long. Because as well-intentioned as the blades of grass and the screwdriver holes in the lid are, it’s just not meant to be put on display. Lightning bugs aren’t meant for jars. They’re meant for joy. They shouldn’t be ignored just because the window of enjoyment is small and the catch is challenging. And they shouldn’t be bottled up just because the enjoyment is great and the catch is thrilling. They should just be enjoyed.
So this really isn’t about the hills and the canyons. It’s about the hills and the canyons and the mountains and the valleys of our lives — the summers and winters and springtimes and harvests. It’s about enjoying what we have at the moment, since the moment is all we have.
Maybe you’re in the midst of a revealing first year of marriage, or a disheartening thirtieth year of singleness. Maybe the economy has you down, or your family down, or your college plans down. Maybe your job search is miserable, or your roommate is mystefying, or your ambitions are unmet. Maybe you’re waiting up for a wandering prodigal, or regretting your own prodigal choices. Maybe your ministry seems minimal and missionless. Maybe you’re just overwhelmed with deadlines and assignments and expectations. But there’s still wonder in the big blue sky; there’s still majesty in a full moon at midnight; and the wind still soothes if you’ll just sit outside and let it take you away.
If there’s one thing you can’t get back in life, it’s today. So make the most of it, because most of it is waiting to be made. But don’t worry, as though making the most of it demands ingenuity, programming, and perfectionism. All you need is the earthy wisdom of the ages, a good friend or a good book or a good blanket, and a heart that will rest in the goodness of God. You just need to look up again, and see that the hills are beautiful.
Like the wise man said, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).