It Is What It Is, But It Is Not What It Shall Be

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It is what it is. I read it on a cubicle wall. It’s a country-craft sign with large, cursive script, a script to make one curse. Words to echo the curse. The sign is made to look like it was made on a farm, but it was made in China. And not on a farm in China. The smooth, shimmering surface lies about its age. It’s made to appear older with new-painted, fading, meticulously manufactured cracks, and fabricated years. An inverted aging starlet. It is intentionally distressed and so am I. But, I suppose, it is what it is. This sign that transports me to a funeral, a child’s sickbed, an accident scene. It is what it is.

It is what it is. It is a statement of resignation. After all kinds of trouble, worry, and fear, there it sits. We can live with such a statement, but not forever.

It is what it is. Is it?

It is what it is, but it is not what it shall be.

Children will not someday die, someday. Cancer will not reduce and end us like a berserker army invading every border, swallowing our hallowed map. It is what it is, but it is not what it shall be.

There’s good all over and grace in every breath. It is today and we are alive and so we ought to happily receive these gifts all over. Gratitude should be our theme song.

Thank God it’s Friday, but Someday’s coming.

We wrestle with the Not Yetness of things. With the good, broken, incompleteness of everything. We can receive a cold valley with thanks and still long for the sun.

It is what it is. But all the same, we long for it to be different. We long for it to not be all the same. Or, we long for it to be the same, but different. Like our best friends, we want them fully themselves. We want the fully realized valley. Sun and all. We want the valley on the edge of forever to slide on over.

It is what it is, but it is not what it shall be. Some day, when Someday comes, we will slide on over into the re-Edened earth. Sunrise.

This bought by Brother’s blood,
And so our family seal,
Runs red across a guarantee,
Of Father’s glad goodwill.
From me, my sons, sin you get,
An inherited curse.

From a Greater Father, you may claim,
All of the reverse.

All of the reverse. In that day, It is what it is will be fully and finally undone, by:

I Am Who I Am.

Featured Photo (above post) by Larry Fellows


47 Comments

  1. Laura Boggs

    I’ve never liked the saying, “It is what it is.” You’ve explained why.

    Let’s replace it with a much older one: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich)

    I actually heard one stranger telling another “All shall be well” in the waiting room of a children’s hospital. At first, her words, which she kept repeating, were met with belligerence. But a beautiful conversation blossomed, and I got the blessing from eavesdropping.

    Thanks for a great post, Sam.

  2. Margret

    Yes! Absolutely, yes!

    “There’s good all over and grace in every breath. It is today and we are alive and so we ought to happily receive these gifts all over. Gratitude should be our theme song. …

    “We wrestle with the Not Yetness of things. With the good, broken, incompleteness of everything. We can receive a cold valley with thanks and still long for the sun.”

    Which is why we can live in the fullness of our brokenness: accepting, yet not resigned; living through, yet refusing to give up, to stop believing.

    Thank you so very, very much!

    All of Heaven’s best to you and yours,
    Margret

  3. Margret

    One more thought: the “Somebody’s Coming” phrase reminds me of that beautiful song of the same name by Russ Taff, one of the most beautiful blues expressionists in the family. (Went I’m feeling my worst because of whatever pain is occurring in my life, cueing up his music or Lanny Cordola’s Shades of Blue CD goes a long way to make it all better.) Russ encourages us all by singing, “When you think you’re out of chances, you’ve got one more!”

  4. Loren

    Beautiful. The rhythm of this adds to the truth as I read through it.

    And Laura Boggs–love the reference to “All shall be well.” Hmmm, seems I’ve heard an Andrew Peterson song that uses that 🙂 .

  5. James Witmer

    Sam, again, you start by making me chuckle and end by catching my breath away.

    We wrestle with the Not Yetness of things. With the good, broken, incompleteness of everything. We can receive a cold valley with thanks and still long for the sun.

    We adopted brothers of Christ laugh with tears on our cheeks, and weep with hope in our eyes. Because today is not Someday, but I Am is always.

    Thank you for this.

  6. Jen

    Yes and amen and this is amazing. Truly. You captured the “already and not yet” (as a theology professor I know likes to say) so beautifully. Thank you.

  7. BILLH

    Mmmm. Sam, thank you for dropping my fatigued and longing heart, finally, into the warm and Sovereign arms of my Shepherd-King. Well done!

  8. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    I don’t know what to say, guys. But thank you so much for the loving encouragement. I’m deeply delighted this short post was encouraging to some people who share in the hope of the Maker and Remaker, the Gardner King of the New Earth.

    Hannah –That little bit of rhyming at the end is from a long poem of blessing I wrote for my sons a while back and it just seemed like it belonged there. So, I reluctantly obeyed that voice.

    We’ve been in Luke in our Bible study at home. I’ve been thinking about Jairus’s daughter. I’ve been thinking about how death’s not the end, when Jesus is your friend. How it’s not good for little girls to die, or for anyone to die. It’s bad and it’s the last enemy that Jesus will defeat. I also met a friend recently who lost a young son, and I think those things were rattling around in my head. I’ve also been listening to a lot of “New Creation,” and “Kingdom Come” sermons/lectures lately. Then I saw that sign and this little essay just gushed out in a few minutes.

    The “Already-Not yet” idea is such a helpful paradox, eh?

    I just meant to say “Thank you,” but went on blabbing. I try to write short posts and then go blabbing in the comments. Ha.

    Anyway, thanks again. I love this community and thank God for the opportunity to be a part of it.

  9. PaulH

    Very well put. It sort of reads like Paul’s letter to the Romans; circle verses and reiteration. This could be a portion of S.D.Smith’s letter to Everybody.

  10. dawngreen

    Once again you have reflected truth with the beauty of words. I kept hearing Jason Gray sing “everything sad is coming untrue” in my head as I read this. (Not as crazy as it sounds, actually music is often playing in my head as I go through my day.)-wait, is that crazy?
    I have a dear friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer .We just celebrated her being a 5 year survivor of ovarian cancer and it is cruel to think of anyone saying to her “it is what it is”. I will share your thoughts with her as we go through the surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and healing. Praise Jesus that all will be well.
    Thanks, my friend.

  11. Peter Br

    Ah, this is sweet to the soul (though I kept reading “not-Yeti” over and over).

    Am I the only person on earth who can’t recall hearing the saying “It is what it is” until Randall or somebody wrote a post about it here last year? Now it’s everywhere. Not that it particularly bugs me — call a spade a spade and start digging — but there it is.

    Also, I stand in admiration of the way you write and speak and minister to your children. Please keep sharing with us as you use God’s gifts in their intended manner. Some of us really need the help.

  12. MJ

    What a fabulous post. It was exactly what I needed to hear right now. You write so beautifully!!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  13. Barbara

    A friend recently told me about a woman whose ten-year-old daughter was hit by a car. Three months later this mother was at church, in tears, grieving the death of her little girl. Another woman walked over to see what was wrong, realized what was going on, and said, “You’re still crying about that?”

    It’s a kind of “grow up and get over it” attitude that in truth lacks maturity and leaves no room for the mystery and reality and hope that what is now is not what will always be. Somehow this allows a deeper attention to and intention in the present moment…*and* a deeper hope toward the future.

    Thank you for this…what a beautiful start to the day.

  14. Debby

    I’m not sure what “IT IS”……but I do know for certainty that God knows exactly what “IT” is………and I’m okay with that.

    I don’t trust at all in what I perceive as “IS”……my thoughts are so very limited.. but I know the one who knows for sure……..and so, I’m okay with that

    I’m not even certain if I will ever get the clarity on what “IS” and what I might think it “IS”……for there is someone else (God) who will decide what I need to know and what I don’t….and again, I am okay with that…

  15. Robert Rife

    Hmmm, resurrection always trumps resignation. I like it. I like it alot. It’s the redemptive suggestion that our Somedays are both today and eventually some day because on one day Someone’s today gave us both a today and some day…a tomorrow.

    Be that as it may…Rob

  16. Jenn

    A German missionary friend and I had lunch this summer when she visited home (Rhode Island). I said “it is what it is” about something, and she commented on how she’d heard that so much from people on this visit, and that she didn’t think it was a good thing. I hadn’t thought about it fully until then, and just now reading your post I really get what I don’t like about the saying. The saying leaves out any hope. Thanks for completing the thought rattling around in the back of my head and replacing it with “it is not what it shall be”.

  17. David

    Spectacular post.

    And not to take anything away from your words, for both the prose and the poem are terrific, but it was the final image — a well-used Advent candle — that really brought your post home to me. “We can receive a cold valley with thanks and still long for the sun” — that is the Advent mindset in one evocative sentence.

  18. Leslie

    Longing for that “someday” against the juxtaposition of wanting to live well in the today. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  19. Eddy Efaw

    I teach Acts to eleventh graders at a Christian Prep School in Memphis. Our first unit in Acts focuses on Mission/Kingdom and (per the permission you so graciously gave) I’ll be having my students read this post and write a reflective response to it. What a blessing it will be for them to read this post on the “Already. . . Not Yet” concept we’ll discuss in class. Thanks so much for allowing me to share it with my students. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes! ** In Sunday school class today I said, out loud, “It is what it is.” I couldn’t believe it! I had vowed to remove that phrase : ) Then . . . I followed it up quickly with “but not what it shall be” : ) I felt much better then. A friend of mine (Rusty Woods who was at Hutchmoot this year) noticed. I felt even better then. ** Sam, your writings are changing this fellow West Virginian. They help form me into what I can be. Thank you!

  20. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    My friends. You guys really lift me up. Thank you. I’m never precisely sure about exactly what God has called me to in writing (right now I’m writing a humorous novel). It’s a place of vulnerability for me (in lots of ways). Thanks for speaking to me about it.

  21. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    David –Thank you. I agree. And that kind of just happened. I had written the essay very quickly and felt like it was fine, but sent it to a couple of people to check over (both grammar/spelling and content). Well, when I got their feedback I wanted to stick it in the RR, but a whole lot was happening and I could not find a picture. When that happens, I usually browse my wife’s blog and steal one of hers. I was so tired and had so much to do and that one was the first ones I saw that I thought may fit, but I was kind of bummed because I thought “What? A Christmas Picture?”. I had it loading before I realized what you said, that it was just the one.

    So, like so much else, I felt like I received the picture (as well as the post).

  22. David

    On a somewhat unrelated note — you’re working on a “humorous novel”? In the vein of your great uncle on your mother’s side?

  23. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    I have no idea where that bit of copy came from (on my little bio). I guess Pete, or Andrew. PG Wodehouse, no relation, is, of course, entirely inimitable. I wouldn’t dare try. But reading his novels and stories definitely has, in a way, helped me give myself permission to write something (allegedly) funny.

    I consider my current work to be the sort of thing that might happen if PGW, Garrison Keillor, and Andy Griffith all got into a Jumbler Upper and what came out was something of each of them, but much less than any.

    At least that’s my best guess now.

  24. Laura Peterson

    I heard a co-worker use this phrase in a meeting today, and without even thinking about it, I mentally chimed in: “But it is not what it shall be.” The rest of the folks at the meeting may have wondered why I was smiling and nodding after that. Amen!

  25. Laura Ward

    Even though you wrote this over 2 months ago, I’m just now coming across it and I’m so grateful. God knew I needed your words this Christmas! Thank you for the reminder that “Someday’s coming.” This truth is what gives me comfort & joy this Christmas.

  26. Jenn C

    Several friends now say “it is but it is, but it is not what it shall be” rather automatically as I result of my saying and explaining it, which was as a result of your doing it first. Thanks for all of that!

  27. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Thanks, Laura. Comfort and joy indeed! This has been an Advent season where I’ve been more aware than ever of the coming of Christ. The New World!

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