It is nothing new to be told to “live in the moment” or to “embrace the Now”. Wise sages have been saying this for centuries, including the Psalms 90 account of the prayer of Moses that reminded us that our whole life span is like grass that is growing one day and mowed down the next, and the apostle James who observed that “life is just a vapor”—fog that burns off with the first bright ray of sunshine.
We know life is short and we should pay attention. But why? And how? Why focus on right now? Why live today as if it were your last? What about the hurts and betrayals of the past that reach their nasty tentacles into this morning and disturb tonight’s sleep with nightmares of the days we thought we had buried. And how can we live in the Now when the future looms like a colossus before us?
This may sound obvious—maybe even simplistic—but I believe the answer is because it is the only day we can affect. “THIS is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in IT.” And how about the advice from Matt. 6:34 as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in THE MESSAGE?
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked
up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with
whatever hard times come up when the time comes.
You have to love that!
When Moses was trying to obey God by leading his enslaved nation out of bondage and into a yet unseen land of freedom, he found himself on one given day facing the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army in chariots pounding down on him and a whole tribe of adults, teen-agers, and children hauling their possessions and expectations with them. On that day, God gave what seemed like a ridiculous command: “Go back and make camp between Migdol and the sea…. Pharaoh will think the Israelites are wondering around in the desert.”
So, on that day the people went camping, fixed supper, and loved their kids. In the night it got really windy. Second guessing the provision of the Lord, they started blaming instead of trusting. “Moses, did you bring us out here to die in the desert?”
But Moses had heard from God. He told the people, “Stand firm, and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring today…. The Lord will fight for you. Just be still.” The Israelites must have thought “Oh, right! Stand still. Really?”
But Moses said, “Break camp and let’s head for the sea. When they got there Moses lifted what he had in his hand—his well-worn walking stick—over the water, and the unsettling wind from the night before began to stack up the water like a brick wall and to dry the exposed sea floor. A whole nation walked on through, and when Pharaoh’s army followed in hot pursuit, the sea closed behind the Israelites destroying the force that had held them captive. (See any metaphors here?)
Maybe, just maybe, the only way to redeem the past and change the future is to live with all we have THIS day. By living well today, we can change the past for our tomorrows. And, as someone has so well stated, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” By noticing and celebrating the blessings of this moment and piling up enough moments of joy and grace, we can alter the history we will hand to our children tomorrow. By focusing on the beauty of this day, by making right choices this day, by purging negative energy this day, we can, over time, live ourselves into a fresh attitude-climate for tomorrow.
There is no grand formula for changing our own homes, our neighborhoods, our regions, our nation—no politic, no party, no legislation that will fix the problem or heal the illness of a home or nation or the world. There is no social program or quick fix, no pill to swallow to fizz away past resentment. There is no magic wand to wave to bring hope for the future.
There is just this moment, this precious, fragile, beautiful moment to fill with something powerful: seeing, feeling, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting this vaporous gift of today.