“Just wait until you have kids. You will never sleep again.”
I’ve uttered my fair share of “just waits” to people over the years. Just wait until you get a real job in the real world, just wait until you get married, just wait until you have a toddler, just wait until they are potty trained, just wait until you have one, two, or three kids—just wait, it’s going to get harder.
I’m not doing that anymore.
I remember before I was married, or had kids, lamenting to someone how tired I felt. I was in school and working, and it seemed like there were never enough hours in the day. She said to me, “you think you are tired now? It’s nothing compared to what’s coming when you have kids.” I was overwhelmed immediately. I had no category in my brain for “more tired.” All I knew was that I was currently very tired and did not know how I was going to make it through finals week.
I imagine this is how others have felt when I have uttered those very same words after they share with me their exhaustion, suffering, or busyness, and I scold them about what’s awaits them in the future, while trying to wrangle my kids to sit still for two seconds. Because I viewed my own life as more hectic than their life, I couldn’t empathize, I couldn’t understand, I couldn’t believe that anyone’s life (especially a single, childless one) carried more burden than my own. I acted under the assumption that life can only get harder from here and I assumed that my limited view of their future was actually the most accurate one.
I think this is what James is getting at when he says:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:13-14).
He’s right, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. There is no need for us to boast about it and no need for us to worry about it either. In fact, Jesus tells us not to be anxious about tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). We have no business fretting about the exhaustion that might await us five years from now, because we simply don’t know when it will come or how it will be delivered to us. For those of us looking at our single and childless friends with disdain when they share their legitimate burdens with us, we would do well to heed James’ teaching. Don’t cause undue worry for a brother or sister in Christ simply because you can’t see how their life could be any harder than yours right now.
And this is where it gets hard, isn’t it? I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. Each season of life has its challenges and its benefits. The single brother or sister could hear your exhortations as another painful reminder of what they don’t have, but desperately want. Pointing them to the exhaustion that awaits them only delegitimizes the very real difficulty they may be facing right now. But the married brother or sister, who is either overwhelmed by marriage or kids (or both), could hear your difficulty as a nostalgic reminder of seemingly more relaxed times. Both sides need sympathy and compassion from each other, not judgment or scolding. If we believe that life in a fallen world impacts us all, then we must believe that life is hard for everyone to varying degrees. We would do well to listen to each other more intently. There is a lot we don’t know about the future, which is what makes it so daunting sometimes. Sure, we don’t know what hardship awaits us, but we also don’t know what grace is waiting for us on the other side either. Telling people to “just wait until ___” causes unnecessary worry today about something we don’t know about tomorrow. It’s unhelpful.
So this blog post is my accountability plea, in the hopes that putting it out there is forever a reminder to all who know me that I cannot, nor should I, be part of the “just wait” club anymore. There is no point in freaking out about tomorrow, because today has enough things in it to freak out about. Maybe your life will get harder some time in the future, maybe it won’t. But I’m not a fortuneteller, and I won’t pretend to be anymore.