My son called a few weeks ago with some exciting news and all I kept thinking as I sat there smiling on the other end of the phone was that I was thankful for the front row seat to so many cool things. And I told him so. But as soon as I said it, I thought, well, that sounds pretty presumptuous. But he agreed and was like “yeah, me too Mom…” And as I thought about wanting that front row seat, I kind of laughed at how things have changed through the years.
I grew up liking to sit in the middle row. In class. At church. At weddings and public functions, I liked being not too far back, but not too up-close-and personal in the front row either. Then, when I became a mom of quite a few children, I quickly found a new and great appreciation for the back row…the VERY back row. It’s close to the door in case there’s a need for a quick get away. It’s important to have a clear safe straightaway exit if there’s an unexpected (but expected) need for a diaper change, feeding, or disciplinary “pow-wow.” Yep, way back when as the variables in my life increased and my world included lots of unknowns, that’s when I started so appreciating the back row. I could focus on the tasks at hand without feeling the unnecessary strain of doing it in front of lots of onlookers. So for years, the back rows were where I felt most comfortable because keeping my ‘little ducks in a row’ …or not…was easier there.
But, how ironic is it that now, I WANT front row seats! And how ironic that those very ‘children’ who gave me such a grand appreciation for the back row are now the ones who are giving me a front row seat to so many amazing and beautiful things in my life? ALL of their journeys and successes, their dilemmas, their failures (or not-yet-successes), their quirks and jokes and laughter, their new arenas and experiences that come with them…ALL of it makes me thankful for the glimpse, the window, this front row seat that I have into their lives.
But it’s a window… It’s not a door to bust through and invade and take over. It’s a window. It’s not a camping out spot,…it’s a view, a seat, a place to sit and marvel and watch and experience. It’s a place to be available to these “stars” in my life as they live out the scenes of their every day lives…available to reach out to if they want to, or merely observe if they carry on and don’t. It’s a place to enjoy and weep and pray and laugh and be through it ALL. All that I see, that is. Am so aware, there’s so much of who we all are and do and be that others don’t see. (Thankful that prayer can reach even there…) But the part I do see makes me so thankful. And it keeps me on the edge of my seat in this thing called life. In a good way, in a hard way, and in a way that keeps me so very alive and vested.
There’s nothing like the joy that comes from watching someone ‘do their thing.’ It’s especially sweet when you’ve had a backstage view of all the rehearsals and practices, attempts and fallings, fears, and fatigue and risings-up-again, …all of the not-yet moments that were so very necessary to the developing of the moments of doing-one’s-thing. And we all have a ‘thing’. Just gotta find it. And help others find it. Because we were born for “it.”
Am thinking God knows how we’re wired. He knows “the paths that we should take…” He knows what makes us tick, or ticked off, what makes us passionate, what makes us feel most alive and in our zone. And when we find that ‘it’, it is a joy. But not just to us. It’s a joy to those who have front row seats, to those who are the beneficiaries of the use of the giftedness, beneficiaries of people using their skills to make an impact can whatever way they can. At different seasons of our lives, we can lose our “it” that we were born for by having it take a back seat to the needs of the now, the needs of those in our lives. Moms can get really good at that…losing (or postponing) their “it” that is. So can husbands and dads who are trying so hard to provide and be there for their families.
But we’re not meant to always and only have a front row seat to others’ lives. Others in our lives can also have a front row seat to ours. Have been cognizant of that in recent years and am hopeful that in the same way that I laugh out loud and have tears streaming down face with pride watching people do their thing, that those in my life can actually even have moments like that with me. Because we are in this journey together…however short or long it may be. And we impact each other. We do. We inspire or we don’t. We encourage or we don’t. We build up or we don’t. None of us can be all things to all people. We’re not meant to have that place, to fill those kind of voids. But am thinking that our love can point to the God who is and does. Am thinking He is meant to have that place in our lives and does fill the voids. And we can be little windows in people’s lives to remind them of that.
I love that some people will have arenas filled with people watching them ‘do their thing’. They will be celebrated by tens of thousands of people and will be well known. They will be encouraged by many and applauded. But I equally love watching someone quietly be faithful to their task when there’s no audience, no cheers, no front row seats. That the beauty that shines in the arena, shines in the quiet places that no one sees. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the gifts of the precious lives in our midst. How many are the opportunities daily missed because we fail to see the value of those in our midst and to connect. Who do you have a front row seat to? Are you glancing at your watch as they share and do their thing or are you engaged, vested, encouraging, applauding even? And what do people who have a front row seat to me see? Do I even realize that they are there? Do I know how my actions impact them?
We only see in part now, for sure, but I’m asking the questions of myself because I’m so aware that we impact each other. And the people in our lives are gifts. Gifts. To be treasured, encouraged, admonished, loved on, even more so when they might not deserve it or feel worthy of it. “People need loving the most when they deserve it the least.” The world sure can be a harsh and angry place. Although technology has given rise to the potential for connections, people seem more divided and fragmented than ever. Am thinking that a little encouragement, a little applause and recognition, a little awareness that keeps eyes off me and on someone else, can go a long, long way. For those that are cheered, and those that do the cheering as well. The cool thing is, in this thing called life, one minute you’re sitting in the front row seat, and the next, someone is sitting in the seat watching you. And if we let ourselves, we can be encouraged and moved and drawn in by the beauty of the other person’s story, their script, their life. Humility can be a gateway to inspiration and encouragement and growth on both sides of the ‘stage’.
Would that we would have a front row seat to applaud and encourage many. In word, in action, in prayer…would that we could get our eyes off of ourselves and our agendas to enjoy the ride, even when it isn’t focused on us. Self-centeredness looks to me more like a merry-go-round with the ego-centric self going around and around and around and around and getting nowhere. And all the spectators kind of do the same thing. Front row seats to others’ lives can definitely feel like a rollercoaster ride for we experience the ups and downs and comings and goings and failures and victories, and all of the emotions that go with it. But I’m thinking it’s a lot more impactful …and fun. And I’ve learned that whether you’re in the front row seat of the rollercoaster, or the back, you’ll still experience the whole ride. (My kids have encouraged me to do the front row seat on that a time or two…and I’ve encouraged one or two of them to get on the rollercoaster…) But the merry go round…there’s no front or back, there’s just a point that the whole world of the merry-go-round moves around. Around and around and around.
So, am thinking that front row seats are a good thing. On rollercoasters, in class, and when it comes to having eyes to see the people around us. Yeah, the ride can be a little wild sometimes…up, and down, and up and down, but there’s nothing like a good story unfolding before our eyes…if we have the eyes to see it. Here’s to front row seats and rollercoaster rides, and encouragement that puts our eyes less on ourselves and more on others. Here’s to front row seats and using our gifts and encouraging others to do the same. But let’s not do away with back rows…there are moms out there with young kids who need the back rows…for a season anyway. There’ll be plenty more years for front row seats…
So there’s a few (more than a few) thoughts on front row seats. Here’s to yours and mine.
P.S. I love Zephaniah 3:17 that says the Lord delights in us with singing.. that He is in our midst and delights in us with shouts of joy. He delights in us like a dad on the sidelines or a mom in the stands or a sister or brother in the audience cheering like crazy. He sees. He watches. He delights. Am thinking His is the ultimate front row seat of it all. That’s pretty cool. And He calls us to know Him and love Him and see what He’s doing…to have a front row seat to His heart as He has a front row seat to ours. And that’s the most amazing story of all.
“The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
…”shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. “