Glory, Heartbreak, and the Now-But-Not-Yet: A Letter to My Sons

Dear Boys, 

This world you have been born into is beautiful. Everywhere you look you can see God’s hand and his purpose. In fact, he tells us in his Word that “the heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). If you have eyes to see and ears to hear, you will not be able to miss him in the people, places, and events surrounding you.  

However, this world you are discovering is also broken. It is rotting with pain and death. The curse of sin permeates anything and everything this side of heaven.  In Romans 8, Paul uses the powerful imagery of childbirth when he describes this overarching brokenness, saying “we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22-23). Every bit of joy you feel will be coupled with at least a tinge of pain. There will be no true satisfaction for you on this earth. 

Now But Not Yet

But take heart! Should you (and I believe and hope that you will) one day decide to answer the call of Jesus, the one who has come to rescue not only you but all of creation, you will be able to see past the destruction. He will give you his Spirit to yearn for and catch glimpses of the new heaven and the new earth which he is preparing for us, even now! As Romans 8 continues, Paul elaborates on this hope we find in Christ, noting that “in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 24-25). We call this waiting the “now but not yet.”

Boys, you know your mother, and you know the easiest way for me to illustrate this point to you is through a sports story. I saw these truths played out on a micro-scale during a Final Four basketball game in early April of 2019. Can you imagine the joy of not only one, but BOTH of your alma maters —UVA and Auburn— making it to the Final Four, one for the first time in decades and one for the first time EVER! Can you also imagine how that joy quickly turned to anxiety as you realized this meant they would now play one another in a national semi-final game?! The tension I felt that night was indescribable to anyone not also experiencing it. 

The Bittersweet

One day you will have your own tensions like this, times where the “now but not yet” of the human condition hit you square in the face, where you experience the word bittersweet in all of its meaning. Press into these times. Don’t run from them. Sit in the discomfort and allow yourself to fully feel the effects of being a citizen of both earth and heaven. It will make the reality of the gospel and the hope you have in Christ that much more beautiful to you.

As a quick reminder, Auburn and Virginia played a very close basketball game that night. Down by two points on their final possession, with 0.6 seconds on the clock, Virginia eluded a double-dribble call and then their star player shot and missed a three pointer. It looked as if Auburn would win the game! But then…the whistle. An Auburn player had fouled the Virginia player as he was shooting. The Virginia player went on to hit all three of his free throws and win the game for his team by one point, leaving Auburn in distress and disbelief.

Who You Are

Guys, you’ll find that you have days when you’ll mimic each of the characters in the story above. Some days you’ll feel like the Auburn player who committed the last minute foul, like you have failed not only yourself, but those closest to you for whom you care deeply! Other days, you’ll feel the elation of that UVA guard as his third free throw went in and won the game.You’ll feel elation, relief, and unadulterated joy all at once! At times, you’ll even resemble the UVA player whose double dribble wasn’t called. You’ll find yourself a recipient of mercy–escaping a punishment or negative consequences you deserve. 

Just remember in all of these circumstances, you’re the same person, loved unconditionally by the same God who gave his son to bear all of your sin. A year before hitting those clutch free throws, that UVA player led a team that was knocked out of the tournament in the first round. A year after that Final Four game, that Auburn player was the starting guard on his team and a team leader. That one foul didn’t define him. 

Your days, good or bad, won’t define you. As your grandmother has always told me, “just remember who and whose you are” and press forward.  

I love you so much, and I pray with faith that you will come to know the one who handmade you. I believe you will live fully into who he has created you to be–both in the now and the not yet.



Join us in Dallas October 24-26, where weary parents can find gospel encouragement at our annual conference!

Anne Sanford joined the Rooted team in March of 2023 as the Senior Director of Development. Originally from Mountain Brook, Alabama, Anne is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of Virginia. She and her husband, Will, live in Prattville, Alabama with their young sons Mack and Hardy. Anne enjoys travel, sports, reading, and music.

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