Already and not yet

I’ve come across the concept of “already, but not yet” often enough recently that it’s stuck with me. I’m pretty sure that it has theological significance (the kingdom of God is both “already” and “not yet” here, or something like that), but I last thought of it while showing a friend my garden earlier this afternoon.

To be honest, my garden is an embarrassment. Sure, it has been yielding a fair share of crops — a zucchini the size of my thigh, for example, and grape tomatoes that are so sweet when you bite into them that they almost taste like candy — but the edges are overgrown with weeds, my corn stalks are pathetically thin, and my pepper plants have been eaten by pests of some sort or another. It was clear to me, and to my friend, that I don’t have the time to maintain a garden.

This is where the already and the not yet come into things. I already have a garden, but I’m not yet ready to take care of it properly. And it isn’t just the garden: as a general rule, I have an already/not yet understanding of most of my life.

Off the top of my head: I want to be the type of person who gardens. I want to be more responsible with my money. I want to spend more quality time with Becca and Jack. I want to eat local foods, slow down, and take the time to enjoy things. I want to read Lord of the Rings all the way through, just once.

Instead, my garden is a joke, I buy things I don’t need, I spend more evenings working than I do with my family, I eat junk food, speed up, rush through life, and have trouble getting to the end of a pamphlet, much less Tolkien’s tome.

And those are just the superficial things — I didn’t even mention the deeper personal and spiritual things, the ones that really matter.

As far as I can figure, there’s only one thing to do: take hope in the already while working toward the not yet. It’s easy to despair when I take stock of my life (which sometimes seem to be as weedy as my garden) but that won’t get me anywhere. Instead, I need to get my hands dirty and do the slow, steady work of cultivating my life into the life I want it to be.

It’s a pity I’m not yet the type of person who does that.

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