Only Then

If you were to ask my husband and close friends for a handful of adjectives that describe me, I’m pretty sure “idealist” would pop up fairly quickly.  The term “hopeless romantic” is one I’m familiar in hearing.

Part of this comes with having a literary mind and an artist’s soul.  I see the world through a lens of possibility and potential, delighting in beauty where I see it and striving to add where it is lacking.  I do this in my relationships, my surroundings, and my circumstances.  There is always an underlying narrative running like a current in my mind as I watch The Story being woven around and through me.  This current can be life-giving, but sometimes it is absolutely exhausting.

For me, there’s a thin line between idealism and idolatry that I fall across all too often.

This faltering is sneaky too, as it starts with wistful admiration or longing, leads to imitation, and, fairly quickly, desperation.  It can be an Instagram feed, a blog post, a story, a scene or character in a movie, but wherever I start, my imagination leads me to a wondering of mind and a wandering of heart.  “If only I lived in that era...”  “If only we could live off the grid…”  “If only I could simplify our home…” “If only this relationship were restored…”

The thing about “if only’s” is the “then” that silently follows.  Our mouths rarely say it, but our hearts mutter it every time “If only….then I could be happy.”

I’ve learned to recognize the tangible comparisons in my life, like comparing my body or my house to others around me, but this sin is a sneaky worm that burrows deep into even my good longings and makes me yearn for perfection in the present.

I’ve blindly believed that if I just set the right stage (our home), then the actors (my children) will follow their lines perfectly.  That less toys, a simple pantry, and an unhurried day will yield thankful, peaceful hearts.  I’ve yearned for eras of long ago, assuming that without the distraction of technology and the luxury of modern conveniences, a kinder, simpler life could be attained.  But as the ancient truth says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  Slander, malice, materialism, and desolation have been around since the fall of man, not the dawn of Facebook.

I want beauty, peace, restoration, fruitful work, and grateful hearts.

In a word, I want Heaven.  I want Zion.  I want perfection, and I want it now. 

At this time of year, a time of fresh beginnings and well-intended resolutions, I need to remember that happiness does not lie in a slimmer waistline, a more organized home, a balanced budget, or anything of my own hands.  These might be worthy efforts, but I must remember that all the deep longings in my heart are an echo of what we lost in Eden and what we will regain in Zion. These things will only be made perfect through the work of Jesus;  what he is doing in me and what he already has done for me.  His efforts are not in vain, and have already sealed the perfection I so greatly long for. I close my eyes and dream about it, and I am again reminded of the then that my heart whispers here.  The then that comes only when I meet him face to face.  Then, I will be happy. And you know what?  This then is true.