Jonathan writes... I hear it quite often on a Monday or Tuesday afternoon: 'I can't wait until the weekend!' Sometimes I can relate to that feeling depending on my schedule but mostly I wonder what the person is trying to say: What is behind the comment? What are they trying to escape from in the moment that isn’t satisfying? What am I? Often it is to do with a job that doesn’t fit the person doing it, a relationship that is tricky, a hobby that they can’t wait to resume in their free time (outside work)… because when they do ‘THAT THING’ they feel truly alive. Yet, I am convinced that when we live for Fridays we fail to truly live.
I believe with increasing conviction that learning to live in the moment is the secret to living a life in abundance!
You see this acutely in the lives of those who do not have long to live. People who have sadly been given just 6 months to live or tragically just 2 weeks to sort out any loose ends, those people have an acute sense of the present and the value of the next 10 minutes. I have never heard someone who cannot plan for next year say… I cannot wait until Friday night when it is currently Monday afternoon. In my experience, people who are aware of their mortality savor every moment as a gift. It’s a cliché, but like most clichés’ they are based in valuable experience: time is precious!
Mother Teresa understood this principle as she worked day and night to care for the dying and the helpless. She once said:
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin." Mother Teresa
‘Let us begin…’ I like that! There is intentionality in that phrase. Let us attend to the thing that is at hand whatever it happens to be. Some people live for Friday’s. Some people are stuck in the past, reliving a moment or a relationship in their imaginations. Few people live in the moment, but I am convinced that it is in the moment where abundant life actually happens.
So the $64,000 question is ‘HOW?’. How do we live in the moment. Well, here are a few things that have helped me along this path.
• We need to have a healthy relationship with our past and our future. By living in the tension of the two we will find stability, purpose and direction in the now.
• The past: Work through your past so that you understand it better, and own it, and learn from it. This is not easy but in this hard work there is a good end! Through God’s work in us, we will eventually not be bound by our past but instead be liberated from it. Easier said than done, but it is possible.
• The future: We need to be able to plan for the future but we should not be obsessed by it. I am a visionary leader by nature and spend a lot of my time moving a Christian community to a future that doesn’t yet exist. Like an architect working with a building contractor to make the vision a reality we need both a plan and materials. It is good to plan financially for the future and for lots of other things too, but don’t let those plans bind you either. The past can bind us, so can the future. And yet, the present is all we have. So live!
Here are some questions that have really helped me to think about living in the present and have given me a better understanding of what is going on in the here and now. They are simple but powerful:
• Who am I NOW? • Who do I want to be NOW? • What do I need NOW?
Who I am now is not who I was 10 years ago. 10 years ago I was a single man, today I am a married man. In 10 years time, who knows? Today I am a grandson and at sometime in the future I will cease to be a grandson, that is the natural cycle of life.
But knowing who we are and what kind of quality we want to attach to those realities can help us to see what we need now to make those realities tangible. I want to be a husband who is present, faithful and Godly. What do I therefore need now to do that?
I believe that by grappling with these things we will become more fully alive; to others, to ourselves, to opportunities, to those in need, to our families, to our work, to the joys of the weekend and every other moment along the way. I hope that thinking in this area will be as liberating for you as it has been for me.