Monday, August 27, 2012

The Glory of the Present

Last night as the Pilot and I curled up on the couch for a pre-bedtime snuggle I said, "Do you ever find it difficult to believe that you are where you're at? That you blinked, and suddenly you're married and in this new stage of life?"

He doesn't find it difficult, apparently. But then, he has been grown up for longer than I have, and sometimes I wonder at how slippery the years have been! They didn't feel that way when I was small, of course. Then, the years were water buffaloes, lumbering, clumsy, blundering. And now they zoom by like the road-runner we saw crossing the street the other day, without even a cartoon "Beep beep!" for a warning.

I am terrible about living in the present. It is not a recent difficulty; the future has always seemed so much more interesting to me than the time I am in right now. I remember being in first grade thinking about how old and important I would be when I was in third grade. I was ten dreaming of thirteen, thirteen dreaming of sixteen, sixteen dreaming of eighteen.

Even now, the mental day-planner in my head is waving a checklist at me of errands and appointments, yoo-hooing for my attention, trying to drag my brain away from this blog post to the haircut tomorrow, the writing assignment due at the end of the week, even tonight's dinner. I have a count-down app on my iPhone so that I can always know to the second how far away important dates are (and yes, Christmas is one of them.) That's why we have calendars, isn't it, and day-planners and schedules and alarms and all those kinds of things, to help us keep the Future firmly planted at the forefront of our minds?

C.S. Lewis, of course, had something to say about that, and being the genius he was, he saw how much more effective it would be coming from the devil himself. Screwtape writes:

The humans live in time but our Enemy {God} destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity...
Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present... it is far better to make them live in the Future. 
To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too– just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow... He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it.  (The Screwtape Letters, Letter 15.)

As slippery as the days have been lately, (what!? we're in Arizona already? We've been married almost eight months already!?) nevertheless I am entering into a stage of life where the heart-thumping pace of day-to-day living has slowed into a more leisurely stroll. It has been literally years since I have been in a time like this. I began today the one last online class before I complete my college degree, and besides that and my domestic and marital pursuits of keeping a house in order and a husband well-fed, the foreseeable future holds a light schedule. People have asked me if I will get a job, and I tell them no, no I won't, at least not in Phoenix. I would rather read books (maybe write one), and volunteer, and practice piano, and spend time building friendships, and have fun with my husband on the weekends without having to worry about a work schedule getting in the way.

Which all sounds very delightful, but when I come to the point, can I take each hour as it comes,  can I resist the temptation to ignore the living breathing present for a phantasmic future which I create? When I push away today's tasks, pleasures, pains, and prayers for the sake of a tomorrow, a next week, a next month which I am not in control of anyway, is it just innocent "planning for the future", or am I falling for a devilish scheme to wean my heart away from the importance of the present in light of eternity?

We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present. 

What kind of gifts have been set before me that I have blindly pushed away in asking for tomorrow?

How to live intentionally? After all, "whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) I cannot do anything in the future, only in the present. Dare I to look for the glory of the present moment– where, as C.S. Lewis says, eternity touches time?

A good friend challenged me to pray and search out what this time in Arizona was going to be about spiritually, because the days do pass so quickly. Perhaps part of an answer to her challenge is to become a student of intentional living. Can I take advantage of the unusual freedom with which God is blessing this new stage of my life to slow down even more, to seek out what it looks like to live each day in the grace of His glory. Can I trust Him with the future so that I can live in the gift of the present?

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