I remember vividly the day our college band director dropped the bombshell on us. It was nearing the end of the semester and we were all freaking out about how much we had to do—finals, term papers, juries, projects… We were so busy and we were all sure we’d never make it through. For a while our director just sat there, listening with a bemused smile on his face. After we’d all whined for a while, he said, “You know, you guys have more time now to practice your instruments than you will ever have again.” You should have heard the hoots and howls coming from the band room after that statement. “Yeah, right! You have no idea the kind of pressure we’re under!” “Do you know how stressed we are?” “We can barely squeeze time in now to practice! Our lives are just insane!” Looking back, I blush to think of how naïve we were. We truly believed that this professor, in his mid-thirties with a child or two, somehow had it easier than us poor, overworked, stressed out college kids. If only. And rather than try to argue his point, he merely smiled and said, “Just you wait.”
Just you wait. Turns out our band prof knew exactly what he was talking about. More than a decade later, I can honestly say he was right. I practiced two hours a day when I was in college—one on flute and one on organ. Sometimes I even practiced an hour and a half on each. I don’t think I could swing that now if my life depended upon it. Add a husband, four kids, meals to make and clean up, chores, activities, a job, etc, and I’m lucky if I get two hours a week to practice! (And this is even from a paid church musician!) But from the perspective of our college band members, we were busier at that point in our lives than we ever had been before and honestly couldn’t comprehend “real” life a decade down the road.
Think about your own life, if you would. How many times have you said or thought those three little words—just you wait—to someone else? When kids complain about the amount of homework they have in 5th grade, high schoolers roll their eyes and think, Just you wait. That’s nothing compared to what you’ll get in high school . When a sixteen-year-old is brokenhearted that the boy she likes asked out another girl instead, a wise mother hugs her daughter while she cries and thinks tenderly, Just you wait. Someday you’ll meet The One, and you won’t even remember this boy’s name. When college kids complain about the amount of stress they have, older adults shake their heads and think, Just you wait. You haven’t even experienced life in the real world. When young newlyweds hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes and make sappy comments, “veteran” married couples smile indulgently and think, Just you wait; it won’t always be like this. When married couples without children walk into a restaurant, have a nice conversation, and leave on their own timing, couples with children look at them somewhat enviously and think, Just you wait. You have no idea what’s in store once kids arrive. When parents of multiple children see a couple with their first child, sterilizing the pacifier before offering it to their baby, they groan and think, Just you wait. Add another kid or two and you’ll lick that pacifier after it falls on the ground before you shove it in your kid’s mouth. Empty nesters see frazzled young parents complaining about how their house is never clean, and they choke up and think, Just you wait. One day you’ll long for these days to return and you’d give anything to live them again.
You see, dear friends, it’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve seen a few articles floating around the internet addressed to couples who do not yet have children. Admittedly, some of the points made are indeed humorous, but I sense an underlying current of derision to some degree. Almost a martyr mentality. We parents have it soooo much harder than you guys do. Enjoy eating a quiet meal while you can. Enjoy talking to each other without being interrupted by kids every other word. Enjoy sleeping in. Heck, enjoy sleep, period. Enjoy… Okay, you get the point. While these things may all be true, are they helpful? I would argue no. Honestly, is a couple without kids going to read those helpful hints and say, “Oh, gee! Let’s have a candlelight dinner every night to celebrate the fact that we don’t have kids around to distract us?” Of course not. It’s much the same as an older woman telling a young mom in all seriousness, “Enjoy every single minute with your kids while they’re young. They grow up too fast.” Again, that may be true, but it sure isn’t helpful at times.
Let me make my case with a true story here- just last week I was in the fabric store and my preschooler was trailing around verrrry slowly after me, with the most irritating, grating-on-your-very-last-nerve, whiny voice, complaining that I wouldn’t buy a certain fleece for a blanket. As this was unfolding (and very publicly, I might add), a lady stopped me and gushed over this little darling child. “Precious. Just precious. So darling! Oh, I can’t get over it! I hope you’re enjoying them while they’re little. What an absolute sweetheart!” Um, what?!? Whose child are you talking about, lady? Certainly not mine! I’m sure she meant her words as encouragement for me, but at that point, I really wasn’t quite up for hearing them. (A few hours later, however, when said child was in bed sleeping soundly, then I could wholeheartedly agree with that lady’s sentiment!)
So what is my point with all this? Basically this: enjoy the stage of life in which you find yourself right now. Is this easy to do? Not at all. While we’re living through it, there are so many little (or big) things that go wrong from day to day. With each new phase of life comes bigger, more challenging responsibilities, and everyone has to learn by themselves, through their own experience, what that means in their lives. Is there wisdom to be found by talking to those who have been through it before? Certainly. And if you are overwhelmed by the daily, nitty gritty tasks of parenting, say, by all means, call your mother or a mom with older kids and vent or ask advice. But at the same time, let’s stop this unsolicited “advice” we love to give out to younger or less experienced people, often with that underlying derogatory current of just you wait. Remember, you were once in that phase yourself. And those who are not yet in your phase of life will eventually find themselves in that phase as well. Will they stop and thank you for “preparing” them by your advice? Doubtful. Instead, encourage them as they journey their own path, so that when they do become overwhelmed and look for encouragement, they will turn to you as someone who can give a bit of emotional support.
When your children complain about how hard their lives are, listen with empathy and try to remember when you were that age; when those worries that to adults are completely petty were very real to a fifth grader. When your teenager comes home with a broken heart, cry with her even as you say a prayer in your heart for the man she will eventually meet and marry. When you talk with a college student who is stressed out by papers and homework and finals, let him vent without interrupting to tell him how easy he has it now. When you see a young couple in love, tell them to enjoy that love, or even go a step further and give them a few bucks to go out for coffee together. If you’re a parent and see a young couple without children, look them in the eye and offer a genuine smile even as you’re dragging your screaming children out of the restaurant. If you’re a parent of multiple children and see a couple hovering over their only child, tell them they’re doing a great job. If your children are all grown and out of the house, offer to babysit for a couple with young children so they can enjoy time with each other and come back recharged and ready to tackle this parenting thing again.
We’re in this together, people. All of us gain new perspective as we grow older. It comes with the territory. I am much wiser now than I was when I was a flautist in my college band, but I certainly hope I’m not nearly as wise as I’ll be in a decade. I don’t always follow my own advice to enjoy this current phase of life, but I’m trying. I really am. Because I know that someday I’ll be the lady in the fabric store, gushing over someone else’s whiny child, telling a frazzled young mother to enjoy every minute, because you see, I won’t be looking at their child at that moment. I’ll be seeing my own kids. I don’t want to look back on these years and wish I’d hugged my children more, spent more time with them, yelled less, etc. I want these years to be a foundation for a more solid, mature relationship with them when they’re adults.
As much as the phrase Just You Wait can carry negative connotations, there’s another side of that coin as well. We’ve talked only of the earthly side of the equation. But there’s so much more, dear ones. For you see, those of us who are Christians have eternity in heaven waiting for us when our time on this earth is spent. As Paul encourages the Corinthians in his second letter to them, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV).
Paul isn’t talking specifically about the daily frustrations of having young children in the house when he refers to “light momentary affliction.” He’s not talking about being swamped with homework in college. He’s actually talking about something much bigger in the grand scheme of life—afflictions we face as a result of our devotion to Christ. Paul faced persecution and danger like you would not believe. He was beaten three times with rods, given “forty lashes less one” five times, stoned, shipwrecked multiple times, in danger on his missionary journeys, imprisoned many times, given “countless beatings, and often near death.” Check out his list in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. It’s unbelievable. Yet this same apostle wrote to these very same people just a few chapters earlier in the same letter that the “light momentary affliction” is preparing us for the eternal glory of heaven, which is beyond comparison. If Paul called his sufferings “light momentary afflictions,” man, he must have had some heck of a perspective!
But his perspective is ours, too, dear Christian. We know that someday, we will be in heaven eternally. We won’t look back at our lives and say, “Boy, I sure had it rough on earth.” No, we won’t even remember the hardships. Keep the eternal perspective. For Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14:2-3 are for you also. “‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.'”
Beloved, take heart. Jesus has a room prepared for you in heaven. We have no idea what joy is in store for us there. When you get overwhelmed by the duties and tasks of this life, close your eyes and quote those words from John 14:2-3. Picture Jesus saying those words directly to you. It’s as if He is saying, Dear child, I know you’re going through a tough time now, but I promise you, your room here is ready. You have no idea what I’ve prepared for you. Just you wait.