What Isn’t There

On one wall of my kitchen hangs a dry erase board. It’s terribly handy for keeping track of things or leaving notes for one another. My kids think it’s also great for drawing on.

This morning, Jessica was sitting on the counter drawing on my board. “Look, Mommy!” she said. “Look at the kitty I drew.”

I looked at the board and saw nothing but blue scribbles. I don’t mean that she had drawn poorly. I mean she had literally scribbled in wide swaths across the board.

“Uh…” I said.

“Look at the erased part,” Jessica said.

I tried again to see what she wanted me to see, and suddenly, I saw it. In the midst of the blue scribbles were some eraser marks, as if she had taken the corner of the eraser and used it like a marker to create (by erasing) a drawing in the midst of the scribbles. And sure enough, when I looked at the erased parts, the drawing of a kitty was clear.

“I see it!” I said excitedly, and Jessica smiled.

It’s understandable that I didn’t see the kitty right away. When you’re asked to look at something someone has drawn, you usually look at what is there rather than what isn’t.

The only problem is, sometimes what isn’t there is what you’re supposed to see.

We moms are experts at seeing what is there in front of us. The messy house, the misbehavior, the logistics of having to get all the kids ready to go somewhere—we see those, all right. But do we see what isn’t there?

Right now, as I write, my 8-month-old son Timmy is pulling up on my desk chair. That’s what is there. What isn’t there is his newborn cry, his blinking bewilderedly at a world he can barely see, or his wobbly attempts to push himself up when he’s lying flat on his stomach. Those things don’t happen anymore because he’s grown out of them.

But I haven’t. I still remember cuddling him against my chest when he was fresh and new, only seconds old. I miss some of the things that no longer happen, even though I rejoice that Timmy is growing as God meant him to.

Other things that are no longer here, I don’t miss. For example, I still need to discipline my children when they’ve done something wrong (obviously). But the discipline issues have changed. This morning, I was frustrated about a particular issue with my oldest daughter, Ellie. This issue does indeed need to be dealt with, because it’s here. But what’s not here anymore is her tattling. She’s grown past that, thank God. She’s learned how to handle things in a more mature way.

The point is simply this: sometimes we need to see what’s not there as well as what is. Even though enjoying present moments is important, it’s also valuable to remember pleasant memories that have gone before. We can give God thanks and praise not only for what’s happening now, but for what’s been happening all along.

We also need to remember the negative things that were once here but no longer. It’s easy to focus on all the things we’re dealing with in the present, but it’s also helpful and encouraging to remember all the things we no longer have to deal with that once seemed like they would be endless. Yes, we’re still working on plenty of areas, but we’ve conquered even more.

Ultimately, the purpose of remembering—whether lovely things that resulted in precious memories, or not-so-lovely things that have ceased to happen—is to turn our eyes to God. You see, He is always at work, sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes out in front. Nothing stays the same forever, and someday, some of those pleasant moments you now enjoy will have moved on, to be replaced by something else. Likewise, the things you struggle with now will be only memories.

So, yes, live in the moment. Enjoy what’s going on, or deal with it, as the case may be. But don’t forget to see what isn’t there. Sometimes it’s just as important as what is.

John 5:17—Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

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