Often when Elaine and I walk together, we talk and reflect on where we are in life. Sometimes we talk about the past, but most often I dream about the future, of what’s next, around the corner. The pattern of these conversations have been the same for over thirty years now. We begin our walk quietly, often holding hands. She will make a comment about something light-hearted, and I will respond with something equally light-hearted. Then it gets quiet again, then I will bring up something about a recent conversation with someone, or an event that recently occurred. We’ll walk, get quiet again and then I do it … almost every time we get away together, I do it. I will say something about what I want to do in the future and Elaine will stop me in my tracks and say, “Mitch, can’t we just enjoy this, what we are doing now?”
There are moments where I do long for the past, later realizing that this past I long for contained its own longing for the past. What I mean is, the time I am referring to had its own moment when I would reflect back on times before that. I have a hard time enjoying this. Now! I have always longed for the past, always hoping for a better future, but … seem to ignore the redeeming God is doing in the present. Elaine is a lot better at enjoying the moment than I am. Time suspends for her. She can be still, take in what is around her and enjoy it. I fight it. To just stop, and absorb the moment clashes with the restless need to grab from the past and borrow from the future. So, I am learning to settle in the present and recognize that right now, at this very moment God IS. He is not working in my past right now. He is not working in my future right now. He is my EVER PRESENT help in time of trouble. (Psalm 46:1). I am to know Jesus, discover his goodness and his life as I can, right now. I can’t grab from the past, and I cannot borrow from the future. I have to experience what I have in the present. Oh Jesus lead me to this. Let it become my pattern. Break from me this tendency, such an unhealthy tendency to not see what you are doing right now.
Perhaps the pivotal moment that invited me to enter into the room of this new kind of experience was reading Jerry Sittser’s book, A Grace Revealed. In one key moment of the book, that door shut behind me as I was ushered into the presence of God, through Sittser’s writing, to embrace the redemptive value of now! Allow me to place here what Sittser writes that Jesus used to bring about this significant adjustment to how I view time. It’s helped me to enjoy God, and Elaine a lot more than in the past … or in the future for that matter.
“My hope is that a redemptive view of time will free us to be completely attentive to what God wants to do in our lives in the present moment, whether we are spending time with a friend, playing a sport, commuting to work, planning a lesson, driving a truck, sharing our faith, listening to music, or raising children. Since “here and now” is all we really have, I am curious to see if it is possible to be fully present to what is here and now, and thus not be distracted by what is “there and then,” whether in the past or in the future.”
Excerpt From: Jerry L. Sittser. “A Grace Revealed.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/jB14I.l