Lenten Promises to Keep

The middle of Lent. 17 more days until Easter. It’s a time of waiting, anticipation, sadness and hope. It’s wearying and rejuvenating in awkward intervals. It’s Psalm 88 one minute and 89 the next.

It’s life.

My life has been crazy busy lately, though it’s nothing really new, and it’s not like everyone else in the world doesn’t feel the same way. We’re all busy. Life is always on the brink of being too much to handle. For everyone everywhere at every time in history, it’s been a struggle.

Today I was thinking about how grandiose and overwhelming existence is. There is so much wonder and beauty to be experienced, so many roses to be smelled, so many puppies to be pet, so many interesting variations on earth and sky to be seen. It’s downright daunting. Just when you think you’ve seen the best thing— Boom! There’s something better. Around every corner and at nearly ever turn, there are new adventures and new experiences to have. New lessons to learn. People to meet.

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep

So wrote Robert Frost in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” It’s a poem about the alluring beauty of a forest during a snowstorm. A rider is passing through it, entranced by its splendor, tempted to linger. But he’s got places to be, obligations to keep. Miles to go before he sleeps.

So often I feel like life is a snowstorm and I’m just passing through, unable to really stop and play in it or experience it for what it really is. There’s too much to do. The business of life doesn’t allow for much lingering. There’s just not enough time to do all that the world beckons me to do.

There’s not enough time.

Those are numbing words. No one wants to hear those words, but we all know they’re true. And oh is it painful to admit: there are places I will not get to see, people I will not get to know, books I will not get to read. There are songs I won’t sing, paintings I won’t paint, films I won’t film. There are things I will only ever be on the outside of, looking in. And it’s not just the lofty “life goals” stuff that gets consumed by the breakneck tempo of life. It’s a day-to-day thing. Every morning we rise, with a list of things we must do and hopes for what we might do. Every night we go to sleep with a few things left undone, a few things that might have happened differently.

I think this tension—this ability to have vision, desire, ambition, and longing for so much more than our temporal faculties could permit us—is one of the most significant tensions of life. It’s painful, but unavoidable. As much as we might try to aim lower or dream smaller, it’s an inevitability of life that we will always be plagued by the ceaseless handicap of “miles to go.” We’re always looking towards an end—a sun that is forever racing away from us, as the world turns.

I suppose it’s a Lenten comfort though—that even if the sun sets far too soon everyday, it also rises.

5 responses to “Lenten Promises to Keep

  1. This is seriously unrelated, Brent, but I wanted to inform you that Friday Night Lights is pretty much guaranteed for two more seasons of thirteen episodes each. Amazing!

  2. Oh wow, that news makes my day! My month! Huffington Post confirms that it’s true. Hallelujah.

  3. Beautiful post. It’s not an exact parallel, but the Robert Frost poem reminds me of the Rosie Thomas song “Much Farther to Go.” My life has also been hectic lately, and there’s no end in sight. I’ve often been haunted by the line “I have much farther to go…”

    I’ve been trying to limit my use of the phrases “I’m busy” and “when things settle down” as excuses. Usually, I have enough time for the important things– it’s simply a matter of priorities.

  4. I love that Rosie Thomas song. It’s my favorite on the “These Friends of Mine” album.

  5. Brett…your “Those are numbing words” paragraph is good stuff. Powerful simplicity.

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