You reach a point when there’s enough behind you that it warrants a looking back. I’ve caught myself doing a little of that this past year. I’m forty-three now. That’s the sort of age that lends itself to a certain amount of introspection. I figure if all goes well, I’m somewhere close to the fifty-yard line of my life. It’s important to know from where I’ve come and to where I’m going.
The problem with looking over my shoulder is what’s staring back at me. If I’m honest, I’ll say I should be a little farther along than I am. I couldn’t imagine forty when I was eighteen. It was an age I painted in broad strokes and mixed colors. And yet even with that in mind, I’ve fallen short.
It’s all that empty space, you see. Giant chunks of years I spent doing large amounts of nothing. My past seems a waste for the most part, a long string of failures best defined by equal amounts confusion and ignorance.
I worked down at the town gas station for ten years after I graduated.
Spent five more at the factory.
I’m on year eight of an occupation that offers little in things like pay and advancement, but those shortcomings are more than made up for in stress and labor.
That’s twenty-three years all together. No wonder I walk around feeling like I’m playing catch-up.
I’m not alone in all this. I know plenty of other people who feel much the same way. We work hard and save what we can and still feel like a gerbil on one of those wheels that spin and spin and never go anywhere. Makes you wonder what it’s all about.
I was talking all of this over with a preacher friend of mine the other day. Smart guy, as most of them are. He’s older, which meant he knew exactly where I was coming from. And when I was done talking, this is what he said:
Jesus didn’t do much of anything for about twenty years. It doesn’t really feel right, saying that. I don’t mean to imply the Lord was lazy in any way. Bu the preacher supposed that if Christ had done anything worth mentioning between the time he left his momma and daddy to head home from Jerusalem without him and the time he called his disciples, someone would’ve said something. But the Good Book is silent on such things. No one knows what exactly Jesus was doing all those years.
That’s why you’ll find all those legends and lost gospels saying how he went to Egypt or India, or how he liked to make living sparrows out of mud. And while I can understand the allure of such things, the preacher thought it better that the Lord simply lived a quiet life back then. He rose up every morning and went to work. Helped his daddy build a door or a chair, maybe, or did his part with the household chores. He went home at the end of the day and broke bread and talked and laughed, and then he went to bed knowing the next day only promised more of the same.
But the preacher also told me all those empty years weren’t for nothing. Sure, the three or four years after were more exciting. Those were the ones filled with miracles and intrigue and a rising from the grave. But none of those things could have happened were it not for those quiet years before. That was the preparation. The getting ready.
I like that.
That’s why I’m going to try and reconsider my own missing years. I’m going to try and look upon them in a new way. Because really, is there anything quiet when it comes to God? Any moment without purpose? Anything in even the smallest life that could be considered as lost or missing?
I think not.