Before Designated Survivor, Scandal and House of Cards, a political drama surpassed them all with its carefully choreographed storylines and complex characters. The West Wing ran for seven seasons and as a bit of a fan, I still desperately hope that they will bring it back so that I can find out what happened to CJ, Donna, Sam, and Josh. The show centred around President Bartlett and the ups and downs of life in the west wing. I’m sure that given half the chance, many Americans would have voted for President Bartlett in the last election, the only hiccup being the fact that he is fictional!
Throughout the seasons, President Bartlett repeated the same phrase. These two words summed up the relentless nature of life in the White House. There was no time to pause. When one issue was resolved, there was another problem waiting to be solved. Whether it was negotiating a peace deal or navigating the complexity of the situation room, the same phrase would be repeated:
In my life, this phrase has featured regularly. No sooner is one milestone reached, then my striving nature shouts, “what’s next?”
I’m one day away from completing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. To some of you, this will mean nothing, but others will understand the physical pain and determination it has taken to get to this point. Despite numerous attempts, I have never finished it before. Every time I’ve given up, I’ve decided I just wasn’t strong enough, and it was more for the hardcore fitness fanatic than for someone like me. Here I am though, one day away from colouring every last square on that chart. I am yet to see my guaranteed six pack and the “up to 20-30lbs weight loss” I was promised, but the achievement is finishing the whole programme. Instead of taking time to celebrate this personal success I have immediately leapt into “what’s next?” mode. A new chart is already up on the wall ready to start 8 weeks (yes you heard right) of Jillian Michael's Total Body Shred. For me, this is the way it’s always been. There’s never been any time to rest and celebrate what’s happening now; it’s always been about what’s next?
I am pleased to say that God has been dealing with me in this area. After an extended period of waiting for situations to resolve and hoping for things to be how I expected them to be, I am learning to focus on "what’s now?" rather than "what’s next?" I still love my projects, tick lists, and deadlines, but I am a lot more comfortable trusting God in the uncertainty of life and focusing on now rather than next.
In her study series, “Present Over Perfect,” Shauna Niequist describes how her close friend always says, “there’s no there, there!” We’re constantly reaching for the next thing. Once this happens then we’ll be happy, once we’ve finished this then we’ll feel better, but this wise advice reminds us that as soon as we get “there,” our immediate cry is “what’s next?”
“A lot of us are living with great pain or great frustration at personal cost because we think it’s all going to be worth it someday. If there’s enough money in the bank at some point, if I hit that number on the scale, if I such and such. And then what happens is you hit that number on the scale, or you get that amount of money in your bank account, and you realise there’s no there, there.”
Our prayer lives can take a similar path. No sooner has one prayer been answered, then we’re on to the next request, next need, next want. Often we take little time to rest in how God is with us now and continuously ask Him, “what’s next?”
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I encourage you to grab your journal or the notes section of your phone and reflect on these questions:
What are the blessings you are receiving from God now?
What has God helped you to achieve now?
In the situations that aren’t quite how you want them to be, how is God showing himself now?
What relationships and friendships is God blessing you with now?
What prayers has He answered now, that you have missed as you’ve listed your next request?
What can you rejoice in now, while you wait for what’s next?