Living in the Moment and for Eternity

Ben Platt first came into the public eye as the titular character in the popular Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen in 2016. He has since also had a successful career as a solo artist, releasing, Sing to Me Instead, in 2019. Platt’s songs evoke hope, encouraging his listeners to live fuller, better lives. His song “Older” reflects on what it means to live fully in every stage of life.

Satisfied with Today
“Older” highlights the dissatisfaction people are prone to feel with whatever stage of life they are in. The chorus repeats:

When you are younger
You’ll wish you’re older
Then when you’re older
You’ll wish for time to turn around
Don’t let your wonder turn into closure
When you get older

We all remember, as young kids, wanting to be older, wanting to be one of the big kids. But the older a person gets, the more likely it is that they can identify with the longing to return to a time when they were younger and things were simpler. There is even a point in life when, paradoxically, it is possible to want to be both younger and older at the same time; wanting to return to the carefree joy of youth, and impatiently expecting the success and stability of midlife. The common denominator between all these desires is wanting something that you do not have. Platt does not say that any stage of life is better than any other; he encourages his listeners to make the most of wherever they are in life and never to lose their wonder for life.

Nevertheless, there comes a time in life when it seems like life has come to a standstill, like you aren’t “going anywhere” anymore. This could be the anxious uncertainty of the high school student who doesn’t know what they will do after graduating, the quarter-life crisis of the young adult who hasn’t figured out their career, the midlife crisis of the successful person who realizes they’ve accomplished all they hoped to accomplish in their lifetime, or the empty nesters who don’t know what to do without children at home. Wonder leaks away and life comes to a slow, meaningless stop. The temptation in such times is to believe that life will continue to feel endlessly vapid and that your worth as a person is slipping away. Platt sings a word of encouragement to those who are tempted to feel this way:

Passed a gray-haired man and I found his eyes
It’s like he knew my thoughts and he read my mind
Saying life is gonna find you when it’s supposed to

The gray-haired man in the song reminds Platt that even in the moments when we feel like our life is empty, there is always more to life, and life will “find you when it’s supposed to.” For non-Christians, such a sentiment might be useless positive-thinking. But for a Christian, the sentiment echoes the words of Jesus when he exhorts us not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:33-34). As Christians, we can confidently focus on making the most of today, knowing that under God’s sovereignty we need not worry about tomorrow. In the words of the disciple Matthew, “tomorrow will worry about itself;” in the words of Platt, “life is gonna find you when it’s supposed to.”

Living for Forever or Living for Today
Christian teachers sometimes urge their listeners to live for eternity and not get distracted by living for the present. We are to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” (Matthew 6:33) and that means always keeping our final destination in mind instead of considering just today. Our culture has a similar (though differently motivated) tendency to insist that we minimize the present, focusing instead on what our next accomplishment in life will be. In apparent contradiction to such attitudes, Platt warns against always living for the future:

If I wait ’til my tomorrow comes
Is the waiting all I’ve ever done?

Platt is concerned that, by always thinking about the next thing, people will miss the life they have right in front of them to engage in and enjoy. While it is true that we should think about eternity, Platt is getting at another truth in emphasizing that, if we are not careful, we will focus too much on the future and miss out on living our lives. In fact, “Older” echoes much of the advice given in the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes advises many times over to enjoy life, telling us that it is good to find joy in food and play and relationships (Ecclesiastes 8:15, 9:7,11:9). But Ecclesiastes adds one very important thing to the message of Platt’s “Older”—we must also fear and obey God (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). To many, it seems like the admonishment to enjoy life and the admonishment to “fear God and keep his commandments” are contradictory. While many people have learned that the Christian life is dour because of the moral standard we are held to (and maybe even that the more boring, miserable, and serious your life is, the more holy you are), the Bible does not teach that holiness and humdrum go hand-in-hand. In contradiction to such a view, G.K. Chesterton said, “The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”¹ The boundaries in Christianity actually allow us to experience more joy in life! Christianity lets the best things in life run wild. There is more joy, wonder, and goodness to experience while pursuing Jesus than in anything else.

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Jesse Childress

Jesse Childress has a deep appreciation for good food, philosophy, theology, and literature. He is the former Lead Content Editor and Writer for Summit Ministries' worldview blog Reflect, and spent a term studying at Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. Jesse has an MA in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University (now Houston Christian University), and began attending Denver Seminary in the fall of 2022 to study counseling, focusing particularly on the relationship between trauma and faith.