Waking Up

Sometimes, in the already-not-yet of waking up, I can smell my wife's hair. The already part knows it's because she has successfully pushed me to the final 1/8th slice of the queen mattress. The not-yet part just senses the closeness, estimating proximity via familiar scent. Though my eyes are mostly closed, I can sense from the brightness of the color slicing through the slats of the window blinds that it will be a sunny day. The hum of fans, sometimes moving cool air, sometimes warm, provides a comfort, not just of temperature, but that systems are running, that environmental provisions have been made. The already nags 'get up. get up. things to do today.' The not-yet begs 'stay. stay. soak up the comfort to carry through the day. this. this. you need more of this.'

Most days there is no dilly-dallying. There are things to do, obligations to meet, responsibilities to deliver, commitments to keep. On those days my senses are not quite as keen. The light beyond the blinds is hard to judge without consulting the morning weather man, the moving air is a reminder to change the air filters, that systems fail. There is no comfort in the mechanical. The white flag is waved; meager mattress territory is surrendered. The day begins with little comfort squirreled away to use along the day's path; it is already, unimpeded, inexorable.

The already consumes most days and rightly so I suppose. The necessary should take precedence over the nice-to-have. Necessary, by definition, means it is required, that these things must be taken care of, life depends on them. A logical, rational approach to the day would therefore be to 'take care of business' first and put off the nice-to-have things ... pleasure, art, distractions, philosophy, rest ... until survival is assured, at least for today and hopefully for tomorrow. We are not, however, purely rational beings. The not-yet prods and pulls, eroding efficiency, challenging necessity, shuffling priorities, slowly changing the shape and direction of our lives. We work at what we must, we dream of what we want, hoping that the work leads to the dream, that the already catches up to the not-yet.

Yes, we are logical animals, using skill, knowledge and experience to survive, plan and live, but we are also continuously becoming something different, something better, something more. The already takes care of necessity. The not-yet, in those rare waking moments when we are undistracted by survival, asks 'why am I here?' The already doesn't question eternity, it has no need to, it deals in the finite, tangible, bounded realm of our current life. The not-yet ... produced by dreams, focused on questions not answers, driven by wistful feeling not the certainty of science ... reinforces our sense of eternity and connects us to a purpose we can't quite define, we can't quite capture but we sometimes glimpse in our relationships, in our children, in our contentment and in our sacrifice. We recognize that life is more than survival, and we yearn to know the meaning of the 'more', the 'not-yet.'

Young couples have a tension, an energy, an excitement that we associate with romance and sex and love and we root for them to succeed, to take the plunge, to embrace the challenge. Cheering them on is not voyeurism or some twisted response of envy. We cry at weddings not because they are a beautiful couple, but because we recognize the potential, because they symbolize our hope in the future, because we know that despite the divorce statistics there is a chance that the relationship will become something much greater than romance and economics. They may become one and grow into some not-yet inspired thing, something more than their individual selves.

Is it love? Is the something more we seek simply love, relationship, an opportunity to nurture, to serve? Is the unknown not-yet thing we seem to be reaching for a more complete, better, ultimate love? I do not know. What I do know is that there are times, other than early mornings, when I have that same already-not-yet feeling. These are my clues, my signs and wonders, my evidence that there is indeed, more.

A mom watches her child on the playground. The child is having fun with other kids, screaming
delightfully, moving with limitless energy, glancing back at mom with wide eyes as if to say 'this is so much fun!' The mom smiles, happy to have provided the opportunity, but the eyes get misty as well because the not-yet is saying 'this. this is why you're here. all the mom's before you. all the mom's after you. they know. they will know.'

A father sees his child grow into a young adult and excel. He is relieved that the immediate challenge is overcome. He is proud of the child's effort. He is satisfied with his own effort in preparing the child. He is worried about the next challenge. Beyond the immediate success the not-yet is saying 'your child will be better than you. you may never find the not-yet in this life. your child is better than you. they might. this. this is why you're here.'

You see an old couple. Their interaction is a timeless, unrehearsed, effortless dance. He holds the door. She straightens his collar. He extends an elbow. She cups her hand in the crook. They move forward together, each supporting the other. It's a simple dance reflecting a lifetime of having and holding, richer or poorer, and sickness or health. The alchemy of the not-yet transforms a young couple's energy and excitement into wisdom, steadfastness, and unity, seemingly, right before your eyes. You, a witness to the transformation, are touched, perhaps moved to smile at the sweetness or sigh with gratitude at the gift you have been blessed to see, but the not-yet says 'there is more. it is not finished. they are still not-yet.'

Tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes wrench your heart. Children hurt. Strangers want. People fail. And yet, despite daily tragedy people persevere, strangers offer aid, children heal. The already almost welcomes our woe, craving an opportunity to do something. Adversity, full of love, worry, sadness and hope, makes us reach, and often stretch too far, for the not-yet, saying things like 'it's part of God's plan' or 'what did I do to deserve this?' We try bringing the not-yet here, to make it part of the already, to make it a tool of logic and effort, to save ourselves, but the not-yet says 'nice try. not yet.'

Our pastor taught me about the already-not-yet. She uses it to describe the in-between that Christians live in. Christ has already come. He has not yet come again. We have already been redeemed through the grace of God. We are not yet dwelling in complete relationship with God. Christian or not, the already-not-yet rings true, doesn't it? A baby falls asleep on your chest and overwhelms you with contentment. Your love reaches for your hand and the connection is more than physical. A loved one dies, grief buckles your knees, and memories, love, hope and wonder fills your heart. These things have no relationship to survival, to the necessity of the already. Peace, wonder, love, gratitude ... these are not manufactured in this world, they are markers by which you can adjust your path to the not-yet, provided you are awake enough to sense them and aware enough to see where they point.