1999-08-27 - Living for the Moment
We sit in church, and instead of focusing on the sermon and enjoying the music, we rehearse what we are going to say in the meeting afterwards, wondering how it will go. Then during the meeting, instead of being completely "present" there, we are hungrily pondering for what we will eat for lunch. While we may enjoy the work and ministry we are involved in, we spend some of our working time yearning for our next vacation. And yet when we are on vacation, we spend time worrying about what we left behind, or what lies ahead! On the flip side, we sometimes in essence live in the past, letting bitterness affect relationships and rob us of some of the joy God intends for us.
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "living for the moment?" I used to think of that negatively, as regarding someone who lived recklessly, with no purpose and no regard for the consequences of his behavior. But I have recently seen that phrase in a different light: I believe when done in the right spirit, living for the moment is the way God wants us to live. I believe we need to learn from the past, and cherish, pray for and work for our hopes for the future. But with a Kingdom perspective, I believe God wants our primary focus to be on the present. I don't know the name of the song, nor the author, but I believe a Contemporary Christian song I heard on the radio says it well, that God gives us "hope for tomorrow and passion for today.
Eph 5:15-16 (NRSV) Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.
I like that -- "making the most of the time." We waste a lot of our time and energy on the "what ifs." What if I hadn't taken that position, gone to that school, said those harsh words? Sometimes legitimate guilt is involved. When that is the case, of course we should confess to God and when appropriate, the other person. However, God does not intend for us to wallow in our guilt. Though sometimes there are earthly consequences, our sins were paid for 2000 years ago. To not to forgive ourselves, or to constantly replay mistakes in our minds, is to squander some of the precious gift of time He has entrusted to us, not to mention hindering our effectiveness in ministry. And we can be just as wasteful when we let fretting occupy our minds. I shudder to think of the accumulated hours I have wasted over the years, worrying when it of course changed nothing.
In The Genesee Diary, the late Henri Nouwen writes, "I have so many ideas I want to write about, so many books I want to read, so many things I want to say to others now or later...that I do not SEE that God is all around me … " All those things are good, and it's a balance, but we need to "be present" wherever we are WIDTH="80%" -- in a class, a service, with our family or friends. We need to truly "be there," in mind and heart - not just in body -- and appreciate the gifts God has given us. The hug of a child, the melodious song of a bird, a chance to encourage a harried store clerk, learning something new--these are only a few examples of blessings we can miss by not appreciating the everyday gifts with which God presents us.
Dear Lord, help us to appreciate more your gift of the present. Help us to live the balanced lives You wish us to live. In Jesus' name amen.
: ) Jan