Each week, my junior high-school math teacher had us write a note to ourselves at the top of our class notebooks.
Test on Friday.
Every instruction about the future was prefaced with those words, “Lord willing.” We, students, laughed about it. We made jokes, about our teacher and the notes, on the playground and after school, but as we got older, we realized she was teaching us an extremely valuable lesson: the future is not promised.
That is a big lesson for 13-year-olds, who think they are indestructible.
But it is true: there are no guarantees.
When we are young and the world and eternity seem to roll out endlessly ahead of us, this seems odd. But as we get older, we notice our best-laid plans don’t always work out.
The implication of this “math” lesson was that each day is a gift. It was also implied that we be prepared for the test but not to stress about it.
Matthew 6:34 says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
This Scripture passage makes me laugh, because it hits so close to home. It is as if Jesus knew the inner anxieties of our hearts. “Lord willing, there will be a tomorrow. But don’t worry about it. Live today,” he seems to be saying.
Make the best of today, because there may not be a tomorrow. Live well. Love well.
It has taken me a long time to learn that lesson my math teacher lovingly tried to drill into me—the same one Jesus has been trying to teach us all for 2,000 years. But during the pandemic, something changed within me. The anxiety over the future was so overwhelming and seemed to change every single day, or hour, that something within me snapped—in a good way. I couldn’t be anxious about the future anymore. If I did, I’d go mad. Today had enough worries of its own. I could only live for today.
How freeing this was! It was as if this reframe gave me permission to actually live.
Now I try to live each day as it comes.
I am trying to pass this along to my 11- and 13-year-old sons. They ask me about what will happen next week, next month, next year, or even tomorrow, and I say to them, “Hey, I’m just trying to live today, man.” They laugh at me.
But I think they are starting to understand why. There are no guarantees.
There will be a tomorrow.