I love life. I think I might be in love with life. I am such a fan of the fact that God saw it fit to bring me close to Him when He did, and I so badly want to soak in the goodness that He has to offer me, even in this imperfect life on earth. In theory, I want to be so fully present to what is happening at any given moment in order to live out this ideal of taking it all in. That being said, I feel as though I am always attempting to get to the next thing. This doesn’t always mean looking forward weeks or months at a time, but I seem to constantly be counting down the minutes to something- the end of class, the weekend, or the last mile of a run. I do it on a general scale as well as with the big picture stuff, like my future career, my vocation, and so on. Looking back on all of the looking forward that I’ve done, I’ve come to realize that I desire to live a life that is in the moment. This is also what God wants for me, and for you. This is not to say that I believe we should have an utter disregard for the future or for consequences that arise from momentary satisfaction- no. I mean simply, that it is a deep desire in myself- and I am sure in you, too- to be fully present in each and every minute that we are blessed with on this earth, in this life. I can speak of this desire so surely because desiring the present moment is desiring God, who comes to us not in the past or the future, but in the now.
Isaiah 43:18-19 says “But the Lord says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already– you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.”
If this was written for me, it could go something like “Do not cling to counting down the days or dwell on the feeling of satisfaction that will be but fleeting when you reach your arbitrary destination. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already– you could see it now, if you were keeping watch for it in this present moment, where I AM! I will make a road through your calendar marks and your quick mental-math that distracts you until you get where you think you want to be, and give you streams of water there (aka, Me, the Living God!)”.
I pray that as we explore this concept further, your heart and mine can be open to the conviction of living in the present moment. Prior to doing something, I really like to evaluate the “why” behind what I’m doing. Why, then, is it so important that we live life in the present moment in order to live it to the full? Turning to Scripture, we find that the Lord says “I AM” as a way of identifying Himself. I think it’s so important that we take notice of this, to look at the fact that He tells us “I AM”, not “I will be” and definitely not “I was”. While yes He always was and always will be, He is specifically present to us only in the present moment, because He exists out of time. Thinking about that for too long can get pretty confusing, but faith allows us to see that the only place to encounter the God of the universe is right NOW. And now. And now. He is in the present, and I don’t know about you, but wherever He is is exactly where I want to be, too. Is just knowing that God is present to us in every moment enough, though? Personally, I know that life moves way too quickly for that to be enough. Finding specific time for prayer is how I know that I can devote all of my attention to recalling the truth and reality that He is present to me. It is said that we cannot pray at all times unless we pray at specific times. If the God of the universe is present to us at all moments, should we not set aside intentional time to praise Him for that? My first challenge for you to begin living in the moment is to schedule time in your day, every day, to recall God’s presence, and thank Him for the fact that He is in this very moment, ready to give you and I all of the graces we require to glorify Him right now.
In Matthew 22: 37-40, Jesus shares about the two greatest commandments, saying “...You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
We’ve covered why it’s important to be present to God Himself, but what about the people in our lives who He tells us to love as ourselves? I mean, the whole law and the prophets being dependent on our love of God and others screams important thing to me! Being present to others, in fact, is often a place that we can encounter God in a really profound way. After all, if Jesus is in the person in front of you, then Jesus Himself is right in front of you.
How can we be more than just physically present to the people around us? You’ve probably encountered a situation where you’re hanging out with a friend, and you’re talking on and off, but they keep glancing at their phone- or been guilty of it yourself (I have, too). Maybe they’re able to pull their attention away at different points, or maybe the best they can give you is a few “mhm”s and “really?”s from behind their screen. This is an example of NOT being present to someone. You might be physically together, but if one (or both) of you has your eyes on your phone, your mind is absolutely elsewhere. Another big part of being present is by practicing active listening. This goes beyond just not allowing your mind to wander and get distracted, but it requires that you aren’t thinking about what you’re going to say next when someone else is speaking. This is a tough one! Oftentimes there’s good intentions behind it – wanting to be able to respond quickly and eloquently, for example. However, if we’re so caught up in thinking about how we’re going to respond, we ultimately take our attention away from the person right in front of us and put it back on ourselves. Of course, we should think before we speak, but we should do so without compromising our ability to receive Jesus in the person in front of us. My second (and third) challenge for you is: put your phone down when you’re with people, encourage them to do the same, and practice active listening.
I hope that in the time you’ve spent reading this, you’ve felt a stirring in your heart. Maybe that stirring is new, and maybe it’s an old friend of yours. I’ve found that this stirring often occurs when thinking about the vibrancy of life and the opportunities that present themselves to me each day. I used to call this stirring my “itch for adventure”, but have grown to realize what it truly is – a strong desire to find the Lord in the excitement of this life. After all, He is present to us in each individual moment, in prayer and in those around us. I pray that you and I can continue to foster that stirring! Let’s decide, right now, to make time to recall the presence of God by carving out specific times for prayer each day, to put our phones down, and to actively listen to and engage with one another. If we start practicing this now, how much better will it be when you finally reach that thing or big moment you’ve been waiting for? You’ll already know exactly how to treasure it and soak it all in. Brothers and sisters, I’m so excited for this moment right now. He is with us, now.