The Given Life


In our family, metaphysical epiphanies strike at the most unassuming moments. Like when we’re heading home from a less than stellar trip to the grocery store, having exhausted nearly a week’s worth of patience in explaining why we aren’t buying Lucky Charms and Jolly Ranchers and why it’s not a good idea to go twirling down the pasta aisle, arms outstretched.  I was following a white exterminator’s van, trying to navigate through an unfamiliar section of town because our normal route was blocked, when my eight-year-old daughter piped up.

“Mommy… (thoughtful pause) I just wonder, ‘Why am I me?’ Why don’t I have somebody else’s life? I mean, why can’t I see different things or do different things? Why am I me?”

I snapped to attention. Forget the Lucky Charms and blocked streets, this was a “teachable” moment.

“That’s such a good question.” I said. “In fact, people ask themselves that question all the time. I mean, why am I a Mommy? Why am I driving home in my van? Why do I have three children? These kinds of questions are the things that we all ask about our lives, and--”

“Not me, Mommy,” said my six-year-old son, quickly correcting me. “I never ask myself those questions--I like my life.”

Like most epiphanies, this one was quickly eclipsed by more interesting things—namely, arriving home and racing to see who could turn on the Olympics first. The moment lasted a bit longer for me though because it came on the heels of a conversation that I’d had with my husband the previous weekend. We were out celebrating our eleventh anniversary (apparently while the tenth anniversary nets you a Caribbean cruise, number eleven involves Chipotle, Starbucks, and back-to-school shopping). As is natural on this kind of occasion, we were talking over the years that had led us to this point. Because here we were in our early thirties, with three kids, living in yet another state, finally settling into our first house and none of it could have been predicted that day we first exchanged vows over a decade ago.

There’s a part of you that can’t help but wonder what would have happened if at any point you had taken a different route? If a particular street hadn’t been blocked and you had simply taken the road you intended to. And you realize that you could have been something--somebody--very different entirely.

This kind of backward longing is most tempting when things aren't as they should be. When life is difficult, when a marriage is struggling, when you feel like you’ve lost yourself along the way. And you being to believe that maybe, just maybe, you were meant to be someone else after all. That who you are today was not who you were supposed to become. And even if you were, in these times, you wish--like my daughter--you could be someone else entirely.

But the reality is that this life—the one that you are living right now—is a given life.

It’s not that we have no choice in the matter and it’s not even that our mistakes and failures don’t affect the outcome. It’s just that we’ve become too enamored with our own ability to shape our lives, with our own ability to control our destinies, with our own ability to be whoever we want to be. And we forget that today--who we are in this moment--is as much a gift as the day we first entered the world. We get so busy longing for the life we wish we had that we're not thankful for the one we’ve been given.

The given life. To live not just as if your first breath were ordained, but that every breath after it was as well. To believe that even as each choice presented itself, the hand that offered the choice was His. And to know--despite its twists and curves— He made the road run straight before you and led you exactly where you were meant to go.

This is where we must live. We must live in this moment. We must live as we have been called. We must be precisely who He made us to be.

Because once you reach that place, once you recognize that the given life, like all of His gifts, is a good one—well, in that place, it doesn’t much matter why you’re not someone else. All that matters is that He has given life to you, that He has ordained that you would exist, that He has made your life to be useful and reflect Him in a unique way.

And once you reach that place, you can say, with the confidence of a six-year-old, “Thank you--I like my life.”