Living in the Present
By Zelda Dominguez
I went to a memorial service last week of a friend’s mom who was 89 and was married 70 years! Incredible. And while the slide show played, it seemed to mimic how fast time passes. Clips of her whole life flashed chronologically on the screen in a matter of minutes. In turn, we too have a certain amount of time here on earth, so we need to live and not just exist. In James 4:14, James asks the question, “What is your life?” He then goes on to answer, “It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.”
Have you considered the life span of vapor? A mist or vapor vanishes into the atmosphere in just a short time! We need to live in the present, one day at a time. Not focused on the past, or so obsessed with the future. Are you waiting for some occurrence to happen until you will be content? Are you living in a “pause position” while time still continues on? We actually need to enjoy life and feel peace, happiness, love and fulfillment through our relationship with Jesus Christ – not through an event, person, material or possession. We need to live in the present and be happy now. Do you find yourself waiting for some future occurrence, putting off happiness until this something happens? Life brings constant change, and Jesus is the only one who remains the same. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8, ESV).
Staying in the present requires recognizing the difference between what-ifs and what is. I myself was reminded as my circumstances are continually changing, my contentment comes from Jesus Christ and Him alone. In the Bible, David reminds us to focus on the present in Psalm 118:24 saying, “This is the day which the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day.” It is all about living in the present. Savor the small things that each day brings because some day you just may discover that they were really the big things. So don’t miss out.
Keep in mind the old saying. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift, and that’s why we call it the present.” Be present in the experience at the time of experiencing it; learning to accept it; learning to embrace the present moment. Have you ever been somewhere and your mind is totally elsewhere planning, stressing, or even day dreaming? Especially during the holidays we can get preoccupied with the busyness, or distracted by remembering past years. Don’t compare.
In the Bible, Paul did not want to be hindered by his past which is why he told us in Philippians 3:14 that he was “forgetting what lies behind.” “Great Expectations” is a novel by Charles Dickens. In the book, Miss Havisham is a spinster who wears an old wedding dress with one shoe on and has all the house clocks stopped at 20 minutes to nine. She has not seen sunlight for years. Apparently she was left rejected by a man on her wedding day and developed such a hatred of men that she adopted an orphan Estella to train her to be cruel and cold towards men. We can be the same way.
In real life our actions weather bad or good have an effect on those around us. So what effect are you having on your family or those around you? The tragic figure in this story is Miss Havisham, a woman who could not let go of her past and continued to live in that moment. Do you know of anyone living in the past? Or what about the character the Grinch from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” He was bitter and grumpy due to his painful past. Although these are fictional characters, we too can choose to live with our eyes in the past, allowing it to dictate our present. Instead, we can say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:11, ESV). Ecclesiastes 7:10 in the ESV states, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” Finally, Isaiah 14:18-19 in the ESV encourages us by saying, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. For instance some may say, when I get married, or when I graduate from college, when I have a baby, or when I lose weight, that’s when I’ll be happy. I hear statements like: “when I buy a house,” “when I make enough money,” “when I get that certain job/ position,” “when the kids grow up,” “when I retire.” Only then, they say, they’ll be satisfied. But if you’re living in the present, you’re living in acceptance. You’re accepting life as it is now, not as how you wish it would have been.
Jesus knew we would struggle with fears for the future so He told us in Matthew 6:34 in the NLT, “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” Those who struggle with change or who fear the unknown have not learned to live in and embrace the present; they get stuck between the safety of the past and fear of the future. It’s God who only really knows our future, yet, we strive and struggle to forge our own path. God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). We can rest in that.