Happily Even After
by Josh Noem
I turned 36 this week.
Birthdays are not a huge deal for me, but they are becoming more and more important the older I get. The closer I creep to 40, the more aware I am becoming of how quickly time slips by.
For example, we went on a hike for my birthday—one of my favorite activities—and climbed a small peak that had a gorgeous view of the Columbia River and Cascade Mountains. It was a 2.5 mile hike, with a moderate incline, and all three kids did the whole thing on their own. It took a little cajoling, but a year ago Lucy (4 years old) wouldn’t have been able to do that, and it would have been difficult for Simon (5 years old). They are both stretching out, and that growth means we can do more and more as a family.
It is fun to have our horizons expand, but I’m also conscious of just how quickly our kids are changing, and that each stage they pass can never be retrieved and will live forever trapped in the past. The ancient Greeks described time as a river that is eternally flowing by. Family life is like that.
My life is like that.
Until recently, I had never been conscious of my life passing. I was just young and making my way. But now, my hair is thinning and my back hurts and I can’t shake this spare tire, and it is clear that these are conditions that will not be improving on their own.
So, savoring time has been on my mind lately. I can’t slow it down any, so the only thing I can do is appreciate it. Taking this “long view” of my life—seeing today as a slice of a finite whole—makes it easier to relish.
In trying to savor life, I’ve become profoundly aware that this stage of our family life is a time of consolation. We have health and our needs are met. We have fun together and our kids are really starting to show their personality. Stacey and I have found an easy rhythm with one another where we know each other’s needs and have softened each other’s edges.
And I also know that this time of consolation may not last. There very well could be difficult days ahead. I know families who are in a time of desolation, and I know that our resiliency and faithfulness might be challenged as well. That is life. I do not wish for those things, but I am ready for them should they fall on us.
So I’m storing moments like my birthday hike in a trunk in my mind, ready at hand when things get cold and stormy. I’ll remember the wildflowers that Lucy named “fuzzy smellers.” I’ll remember everyone playing “20 questions” to take our mind off of being tired. I’ll remember how quiet everyone got when we reached the summit and saw birds soaring below us and the sun bouncing off the rippled river as it meandered to the sea.
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