You can spot us a mile away. My husband sports the requisite hairstyle, and in a military town like San Antonio, it’s a dead giveaway; so the people around us–church folks, neighbors, school friends–know we’re a military family. And one of the ways to make small talk with a military family is to ask them how long they’ll be here. It’s a pretty sure bet that either they’ve recently arrived, or they’re getting ready to leave. These are our two stages of life: “Where did you come from?” and “Where are you going next?”
After two years and nine months in San Antonio, we are now entrenched in the latter stage. We have our marching orders, so to speak. We know where, and when, we will be going next, and it is The Topic of conversation for whoever ends up sitting near us in the pews and at the potlucks.
And if talking about it near-constantly isn’t enough, we also have a chronic case of Senioritis. Graduation Day is right around the corner, and we really just want to coast from here on out; show up to class in pj pants and fuzzy slippers, phone it in on our final assignments, score our last few passing grades, sit through the obligatory reading of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” and throw our caps in the air. We are ready for the Next Thing.
The trouble is, we have a sense of winding down—but the people around us are just getting started! Back in Senior Year, we were in good company; our friends and teachers were all awaiting the commencement of a different life, or at least a peaceful summer. We were all feeling a little bit antsy and (truth be known) a little bit lazy. But now, when we are drawing back and slowing down, we’re on our own. All around us people are getting ready for the high seasons of spring and summer; in church, especially, the calendar is filling with exciting new ministries, preparations for Lent, and anticipation of summer music camps and VBS and mission trips.
I have never claimed to be good at Being Here and Being Now. But it is most challenging during this stage of our family’s life, which we revisit every three years. We are already invested–Here, and Now. We have fingers in the pies of ministries and friendships, we have been involved on planning teams and committees, we have pitched ideas and promised help. We are, ourselves, still learning and growing and feeling calls, and yet everything we do is tinged with the reality that our Here-ness and Now-ness are short-lived. Just in the past week I have received training for a new ministry, and I even made a new friend! And I have to find ways to silence my instinctive “Why bother?,” remembering that being here and now still matters. I have to remember that the next few, short, months are still real life and in them I may still be changed.
That’s life, though, and not just the military kind.
I can’t help but think of the disciples standing up on the hill, staring up into the clouds after Jesus in Acts 1:11. I imagine them waiting, expecting the Next Thing to begin, needing a gentle reminder that perhaps looking up into the sky isn’t the most helpful way to go about the life of faith.
We can only be where we are now. (I will be repeating this to myself constantly in the coming weeks and months.) We can’t follow Jesus up to the heavens, and we can’t just call Senior Skip Days. We can’t stand around waiting for real life to begin, and we can’t put all our energies into the future’s to-doing. We have to be here, to keep dispensing time and effort and love into people (even knowing it will make the goodbyes harder) and into work (even knowing we will not see its fruition firsthand). I have to do it to show my children, and to prove it to myself again and again, that this is God’s call to us: this place, this time. For now.
Nicole Finkelstein-Blair became a U.S. Navy spouse in 2000, graduated from Central Baptist Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2001, and became “Mom!” in 2004. She finds ministry wherever the military and motherhood lead: in four states and two countries (so far), as a parishioner and a pulpit-supplier, as a sometime blogger and devotional writer, and at countless dinner tables and bedtimes. She’s enjoying now… and looking forward to what’s next.