Tuesday, January 19, 2016
There's a phrase that I've been hearing for years- and may even be guilty of using myself from time to time- and I've gotten so tired of it that I'm ready to suggest that it be banned forever. Perhaps you've heard it too... you're sharing a story or an experience or something that's specific to your current stage of life, only to be told, "Oh, just wait!"
To the teenager, we say, "Just wait until you're in college..."
To a college student, we say, "Just wait until you're an adult in the real world."
To a single, married people say, "Just wait until you're married!"
To newlyweds, we say, "Just wait until the honeymoon wears off!"
To couples without kids, we say "Just wait until you have a baby!"
To couples with one baby, we say "Just wait until you have a toddler!"
To couples with one child, we say "Just wait until you have two (or three or four)!"
To couples with young kids, we say, "Just wait until they're teenagers!'
To couples with teenagers, we say, "Just wait until they're grown!"
Good grief... why can't everyone be able to experience, enjoy, muddle through, cry over, or whatever in each stage of life without it being belittled or dismissed by someone in the next stage? I'm a mom of a three-month-old baby, so no- I don't know what it's like to chase a toddler or argue with a teenager, but I'm still a mom. Single people can have full lives without (gasp!) constantly seeking a date or marriage. Teenagers do have problems, no matter how trivial they seem to us, and they don't have to wait until adulthood to experience sadness or betrayal or hurt.
Even though these words can come from good intentions (as in, "don't worry- you can survive this!"), it seems that more often than not we are just grumpy people who want to feel a little superior to someone because we've come through a stage that they haven't yet. Or for some reason we have a bit of a sadistic pleasure in letting people know that their lives will become more difficult. (Misery loves company!) Someone recently said to me, upon hearing that Alice is a very good, easy baby, "Well, that just means she'll be a really difficult toddler!" What? Maybe she will be. Maybe Alice will go from my sweet, smiling baby to a little hoodlum whose screams can be heard throughout Target (heaven forbid!) but nothing guarantees that and why on earth would you want it to?
Besides being condescending, this "just wait" business completely contradicts what we are told in Philippians 4:11- that in whatever "state" or stage we can find contentment. (I'm not talking about truly difficult seasons of sickness, loss, dire financial straits, etc. but just the typical day-to-day living most of us are dealing with.) Being single or having a newborn or going to college are all unique times of life, meant to be enjoyed (sometimes endured) but not constantly compared to whatever someone else is going through. Don't we all know that sometimes even after marriage, the single life has some appeal? Or that moms of toddlers look back fondly at the days of their little squishy newborns, or that parents of teenagers certainly miss even the craziest days with that toddler who is suddenly sporting acne and a perpetual scowl?
The point is this: offering encouragement to someone to help them make through a rough patch in life is fine, and even admirable. But acting as if their experiences are irrelevant because yours are different is not okay. (I remember being so mad as a teenager when someone told me I didn't know what it meant to be tired. I didn't, but that's not the point.) "Just wait...." usually ends with something negative that either puts down their current stage of life or makes them dread the next one. (This is especially true of marriage- I love how older couples sometimes make it their mission to make sure young couples have nothing to look forward to.)
Current stage... taking mirror selfies with my squishy girl =)
So, let's try to meet people where they are, allow each other to fully experience each lovely (or not-so-lovely) chapter of life as it unfolds, and be reminded that it's okay to "just" be a student, or a newlywed, or a first or fifth time mom, or a grandparent. Each stage is easier or harder to more or less fun than someone else's, but if we are finding our identity in Christ than any time of life can be beautiful and joyful. And if it doesn't seem that way today, well... just wait. =)