This weekend, over two nights, my husband and I watched Marley & Me. Cute movie, not stupendous or anything, but good enough. It gets better towards the ending.
Of course, my husband was only watching the movie because he was hoping to spend quality time with me so that we would do something OTHER than watch a movie, and it was a LOOONG movie. By the end Keith was saying to himself, “Die, already, dog. Just die!” Because really, the dog did take a long time to go.
But the point wasn’t the dog. The point of the movie, which is based on a true story, was one man’s search for peace and happiness.
Throughout the show he makes all the right choices. He marries; he gets a good job; he tries hard at that job to support his family; he has children. Of course, he gets a dog. But despite making these right choices he’s restless. He always feels that the grass is greener on the other side.
I’m not saying he wanted to have an affair; that never entered the movie at all. It’s just that when the normal problems come with life, they drag him down. When the babies are young and difficult, and his wife is hormonal and difficult, he wonders if this is really what he wanted. And he wonders that throughout the movie. He ends up quitting his job as a columnist because what he really wanted was to be a reporter. So he becomes a reporter.
But once he takes that job something inside him changes. He understands that it’s not about what you want or dream about; it’s about what you are. And he is a columnist. He is a father. He is a husband. And by the end of the movie he’s made peace with that.
It’s funny, because on the same evening we also watched Karate Kid with the kids. I’m not sure it was the best move; too much teenage dating for my taste compared to what we’re trying to teach our kids, but a good movie nonetheless. (There is swearing, if you don’t remember, so think before showing it to your own). But I’m reminded about how many movies in the 80s depicted broken families and the ugly side of life. No matter how much we complain about Hollywood these days, there are movies that depict the nuclear family in a good way, and this is one of them.
Anyway, the point that I took home, and that I want to talk about, is this idea that we can make all the right choices for all the right reasons and still not feel peace. Have you ever been there? You know kids were part of the plan. You know that you’re supposed to be married. But you’re restless. I spend my life being restless (though more about my vocation than about my kids).
Some people are more prone to restlessness than others. And restlessness is not necessarily a bad thing, or a sin, or something that you need to be ashamed of. Some of us are idea people, and our heads are filled with all the other things we could, or even should, be doing. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t called here, or aren’t satisfied with what we have. It’s just that we can’t shut off that part of our brain which keeps seeing different things to spend our energy on. And there’s only so much time in the day, so we’re forever feeling like failures. This isn’t what we were meant to do.
But maybe it is. All that dreaming isn’t a waste; there may be times when you can fulfill some of those plans. For right now, though, we have to look and say, “is this where I’m supposed to be?”. It may not be part of the plan I had for my life. Maybe I thought I’d be further ahead by now. Maybe I thought I’d be married differently, or have more (or fewer!) kids. Maybe I thought I’d live somewhere else, have my own house, be financially stable. But it doesn’t matter what you thought. The point is, for right now, is this where you’re supposed to be? Is this what you’re supposed to be doing?
God doesn’t measure your life by how much you lived up to your plans. He measures your life by whether you’re living for Him in the little things. And what I’ve had to do to turn off those voices is not just take it a day at a time, but an hour at a time, and ask God, “is this what You want me to do for this hour?” And I’m starting to realize that it is.
You see, I have dreams that I should have written another book this year, or started back up at my radio program, or done more for Africa. And I feel restless about these things. But when I start going to God and saying, “Okay, Lord, for this hour, what should I be doing?”, and I realize I should be putting dinner in the crockpot, or teaching my kids math, or even taking some time to knit, then it’s quite clear I didn’t have time to write that book. And that’s okay. I don’t need to be restless.
I can dream, and maybe those dreams will come to fruition one day. But I need to find my peace here, and I can’t do that unless I’m going to God and keeping up with Him about His priorities on a day to day, hour by hour basis. It may sound anal, always asking God, “is this it? Is this it?” But if I don’t, I waste time. And I also feel unsatisfied. When I stay in contact, I spend my time better, and I’m more at peace with my choices.
Peace doesn’t automatically come from making the right choices. It only comes when we learn to live, day by day, within the parameters of those choices. And for that, I think, we need God.