In a quiet moment, I found myself full of fear and regret. Fear of how our upcoming ministry banquet will go. Regret for the way I showed a lack of trust in one of my kids the other day. Will we have enough saved for retirement? Have I modeled Christ’s grace and forgiveness enough to those around me?
Moments like these, where our minds flit back and forth between regret over the past and fear for the future, are more common than we would like.
It’s so normal. But so harmful and unproductive, pulling us out of the present to dark places we can’t control or shape.
How can we stay focused on the moment God has put before us right here, right now so that we can enjoy it and use it to love him and others?
The Sacrament Of The Present Moment
While the bible has plenty to say about the value of the past and future, the only moment we can impact – and know God in – is the one in front of us right now. And so, God calls us to live in the present moment, acknowledging his presence and following him in simple obedience.
This is what Jesuit priest and author Jean de Caussade (1675-1751) calls the ‘Sacrament of the Present Moment’. (Hat tip to musician and author Michael Card for putting me on to this at a recent conference.) Because God has given me this moment, and is present in it, it is holy and set apart. Not to be wasted or missed.
This is easier said than done.
Just last night, during worship at one of our campus meetings, I was distracted. Worried about upcoming responsibilities. Wondering how my voice sounded to others as we sang. Thinking about uncompleted house projects.
Sure, it was just a few minutes. But it’s a pattern for me. And I missed the life-giving opportunity to fully worship God.
No Wonder It’s So Hard
Being present in the moment God has given us is hard. And it’s not just the busyness and distraction of modern life. Beyond our own – and others’ – brokenness, we have an enemy (see 1 Peter 5:8).
As self-sufficient, I can-do-it-myself Americans, we don’t talk about him, or ask for protection from him, very much. Which is just fine with the devil. Instead of encouraging us to savor God in the moment before us, he tries to:
- pull us into the past and make us feel guilty for bad choices we’ve made (he’s our ‘accuser’; Revelation 12:10)
- make us dissatisfied with what God has given us (Genesis 3:1-5)
- get us to prove our value to others, and ourselves, rather than embracing the worth we already have in Christ (Luke 4:3)
- turn our attention to the future, filling us with worry, lies and doubt (Genesis 3:4-5; Luke 4:6-7)
- ‘promise’ us something we’d like now if we’ll just do it his (or our) way (Luke 4:6-7)
So with an enemy like that, and the problems we experience from ourselves and others, no wonder it’s so hard to be present in the present moment.
I hope that encourages you when you find yourself in la-la land. Discontent. In outer space. Again. There are reasons it’s so hard. It’s not ‘just’ you. Everyone else is struggling with this, too.
The good news is that God doesn’t hold you responsible for what others, or Satan, are up to. And even in your own struggles, he is with you to provide help and progress (for example, Psalm 46:1; Philippians 1:6).
Your Life, Simplified
We live in an unbelievably overwhelming world. Knowledge is multiplying, on average, every 13 months. Our mailboxes are inundated with unwanted junk. Our inboxes seem to multiply like rabbits. And there are a million blogs we could be checking (thanks for checking mine!).
So, anything that can simplify my life is an unbelievable gift.
God has simplified our lives by only giving us the moment in front of us.
In this moment, we have a simple choice: trust him or myself? For example, will we encourage the person in front of me, or, subtly tear her down? Will we put some thought into that sticky email and respond, or, click away to the cat video that doesn’t require us to engage? And are we willing to stop what we’re doing so that we can show love for someone else?
There is tremendous freedom from God when I pay attention to this moment. Just the next thing. This thing.
When we do this, things usually go well over time. Not always, but often. God blesses our faithfulness when we steward the little moments that he’s given us.
Where – specifically – do you tend to find yourself pulled out of the present moment? Why do you suspect that’s happening? And, what would it look like for you to be more faithful to these moments?