Living in the present is both something that I conscientiously try to do, maybe more than most people…. and it’s also something which is a real and honest struggle for me.
It’s started really early for me. I can probably peg it to a dream I had when I was about four. I had this dream that my mom died, and I woke up crying because I realized-for the first time- that one day she probably would go before me. It became my worst fear for most of my childhood. My mom was my best friend, and I didn’t want her to go. I tried to appreciate her as much as possible. Then, as many of you know, she did end up leaving this world way too soon. Have you ever had your childhood nightmare unfurl in front of you? Trying to stretch time out before the trauma comes, to love as hard as possible but finding it’s not enough to retain the present? It leaves you with a weird relationship with time. You realize that it will keep slipping away even as you try, so deliberately, to soak it in.
I also remember when I turned 10, being kind of contemplative about how great my childhood had been up until that point and the fact that it was going by too quickly. I was definitely aware that time was speeding up and I needed to enjoy it, but the fact that I was so aware made it hard to do that.
Was I just a weird kid? Are there others of you out there?
There are a plethora of similar examples, but I think they all essentially represent a serious paradox of the introspective, melancholy type.
Fundamentally, we are aware of the present. We are aware of its joy, of its depth in grief, of its illusive inability to be captured. There are photographs we consciously take in an awareness of the fleetingness of life. I do think that those mental photographs are one of the best things I do to live in the present, but it’s still hard to keep the ongoing moment in focus when I know I am trying to remember something that might be gone, later. My mind always is slipping forward, to the “What if? Whens?” or backward to the “Remember?” It’s hard to keep it still.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that’s all bad. The fact that my brain tries too hard to appreciate the present does actually help me appreciate people and events in my life better, I think. However, it can still steal my joy in the present.
I was struggling the other night as I lay in bed, caught between memories and inevitabilities and yearning for the peace of the present.
I realized, suddenly, that I have one anchor throughout all my life. Just one.
The Lord is in every time and every place, and He has always been-will always be-with me, wherever I am. There’s a saying that, in life, we enter and leave alone, but as a Christian I know that that’s not true. My God is with me in every stage of my life, and there is so much comfort in that realization.
So my prayer for today-yours, if you want it- is for joy in the present, appreciating but not overthinking. Each moment God has made was made to be lived in.
“This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118: 24