I am experiencing time warp. I keep hearing people asking how it is possible that we have now passed one full year of living in the pandemic. Then again, how could it be that we’re approaching the last few weeks of the school year already or perhaps even the home stretch of your student’s UNW experience? This is not the first time I’ve had the sense that time is tricking me. I have a daughter who turned 30 this year but, in my mind, the year she turned three was also just yesterday!
If you are old enough to have a college-aged son or daughter, you already know that the decades stack up all too quickly. And yet, life is not lived a decade at a time. We live it one day at a time. You know how it goes… the days turn into weeks, which turn into months, which turn into years. The more of them we collect, the smaller each one is in proportion to the sum and pretty soon we catch ourselves annoying young folks with the “When did you grow up on me?” comment that was equally irritating to us when we were their age.
Lately I have been contemplating the meaning of the word daily. It means, quite literally, one day to the next. That sounds like “push repeat.” Much of this last year has, indeed, felt like a monotonous chain of same-ness. Never in my life have I had more trouble recalling what day of the week I was living in! However, daily is really more nuanced than just a do-over. Daily life that turns a daughter from three into thirty is more like a stacking-up of small steps and incremental, intentional choices over time. Like the movie Ground Hog Day, the little nuances that make up the bits and pieces of each day do stack up to progress, when we are intentional about them.
Maybe the last year has felt less like moving ahead and more like we were on hold if we allowed our daily to become less intentional. When I step back and look at my own behavior, I am not entirely pleased with the habits that have entrenched themselves over the last year. I wish that I hadn’t allowed the Covid pounds to make themselves at home. I wish I hadn’t spent as much time online when I wasn’t working. However, Covid has allowed a silver lining in slowing me down to appreciate the people I live with a great deal more. My own Northwestern student is a commuter and my favorite part of being home more has been our lingering conversations after dinner. Our son has a special gift for asking thought provoking questions. Recently, he challenged us to name the biblical character whose daily life we would most want to live. We took some intentional time to explore that thought together.
We admired David for his faith, Abraham for his legacy, Joseph for his steadfast walk, and Solomon for his wisdom, but recognized that all of these men were also deeply flawed. We admired Rahab for her defense of family, Ruth for her loyalty, and Esther for her courage, but did not long for the circumstances any of these women faced. It surprised us to say that none of us would have wanted to experience what stacked up in the daily lives of ANY of these heroes of the faith. Intentional or not, we saw that their definition of DAILY included infidelity, dishonesty, separation from family, moral compromise, ethical dilemma, tragic losses, or the loss of control of their own lives. We moved on to contemplate that being a direct witness to Christ’s ministry would be the ultimate daily experience, but stopped short when we realized that even the disciples who deliberately pursued Christ got way more with the package than they imagined or intended. All of the disciples experienced the agony of rejection, persecution, imprisonment, or horrific executions. We concluded that in our privileged first world lives, we just might not be tough enough to endure what was required of them.
We eventually landed on Enoch as our top choice. Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch “was commended as one who pleased God.” In fact, he delighted our Lord so greatly that he was taken directly from this earth into heaven, never to have even experienced the fear of death. Because we don’t know much about Enoch’s life, we don’t know if he endured persecution or loss or suffering. Then again, because we don’t know much about Enoch’s life, we don’t know WHAT persecution or loss or suffering he endured. What we do know is that Enoch still had to go through life one day at a time like we do but that he did it in a way that was extremely pleasing to God. Enoch must have taken his DAILY very seriously.
Life is so very daily but we live in a culture that focuses on the highlights. A 30th birthday and a graduation can look like we’ve reached the goal, but have we? How easy is it to set goals for the destinations without setting goals for the journey? Regardless of if “next” means getting past Covid or getting a job, we will still be doing that one day at a time. As we near the end of the school year for our students, they are reaching a milestone for sure, but even commencement is followed by another day to start or stick to healthy habits and patterns, capture thoughts, steward actions, and to make a life that walks—if not perfectly, then at least well—with God. These days each require their own renewed commitment to intentionality. They stack up to the sum of their nuanced choices in a life of excellence, decades in the making.
Walking with God is something He intended us to do daily. There are 365 days in each year. I find it interesting that Enoch had exactly 365 years of life. For my daughter, it took 10,950 individual days to get to her 30 years. While we certainly want to celebrate the victories of surviving pandemics, completing another year of school, or completing an entire degree, how can we help convey to our students that the way they live the day after commencement and the patterns and habits they set in the days to come will indeed stack up to the rest of their lives? Perhaps we could start with a simple conversation with our students around the dinner table about how many days it took to get to where they are today. Their goals for the days along the way to the next milestone will be what adds up to their life well lived.