Already and Not Yet

Swollen Feet and the Kingdom of God

already-and-not-yetLast Friday, amidst early morning preparations to get The Dude (i.e. our 5-year-old son who, to this point, has been known to Convert-sation readers as Sassy McSasspants) ready for preschool, it occurred to me that I couldn’t tie my shoes.

OK. That’s not completely accurate. It occurred to me that tying my shoes would involve balancing my enormously pregnant self against the footboard of the bed and hoisting my legs onto the bookshelf all while making a series of loud and unbecoming noises. I glanced at my sandals knowing full well that succumbing to their beaded and completely impractical siren song would cause my feet to swell beyond recognition. I glanced at my sleeping husband knowing full well that this was the first day off the hardest working man in theology (which is kind of like being the hardest working man in show business … you know, except with significantly less sweating and significantly more Latin) had been able to take in months.

So I woke him up.

To his credit, he was not cranky. He tied my shoes just the way I like, gave me a kiss on the belly, and cuddled back up to our 2-year-old and 4-year-old, who had stealthily commandeered 3/4 of our king-size bed sometime in the middle of the night. Problem solved. But it got me thinking. It got me thinking about our daughter who will be born in the next month and a half (to whom we have given a lovely Catholic name and to whom The Dude, in retribution for his yet again being denied a little brother, has given the name Reepicheep). It got me thinking about how someone could be physically here and alive and constantly moving and growing and listening and affecting even the most trivial parts of my day and constantly with me … but in a way … a real way … not yet here. It got me thinking about how God is always with us, constantly present, moving amongst us and within us and yet … in a real way … not yet here. It got me thinking about how every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are confirming the reality that the Kingdom of God has come on earth and it is also still coming. Already and not yet.

As Christians, we dwell in the mystery of “already and not yet.” We proclaim a Christ who was present before all time, who entered into human history as flesh and blood, who promises to be with us until the very end of the age, who has urged us to be at the ready for his return. Jesus is here already — in the Church, in the Eucharist, in the Gospels, in quiet moments of prayer, in acts of mercy and love and humility and forgiveness that happen every second of every day and in every place among every people. But also Jesus is not yet here — to usher in the final triumph of justice over injustice, love over hatred, freedom over bondage, hope over fear, life eternal over death. Every time we celebrate Mass we both receive him in the Eucharist and declare ourselves people who “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” We hold him in our hands and we anticipate him with delight.

As I look down at my growing belly and my swollen feet, I feel extravagantly blessed to be able to participate bodily and intimately in the mystery of “already and not yet.” As I feel our tiny daughter impossibly close to me every second of every day and yet yearn for her to come, I am reminded that we are all called to experience Christ in this way — to treasure him desperately and hope for him fervently. We wait with joy because he is here with us. We dare to hope because he has not yet come.