Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Discipline of the Present Moment

Sometimes you just have to wonder if Jesus was serious. He said some pretty outrageous things, and I suspect when we see him face-to-face he’ll say, “Oh, that! I was just yanking your chain.” Or not. Maybe he meant what he said.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33)
These words are a crazy combination of challenge and promise. The promise is perhaps a negative: Jesus assures us each day comes with just enough trouble. It’s not the sort of promise you’ll find in a book of Bible promises or some promise-a-day software. The challenge comes when Jesus suggests that tomorrow isn’t worth the worry. Really? How, then, can I prepare?

I believe these words from Jesus are an invitation to exercise the discipline of the present moment.

Have you ever meditated upon the fact that all of us live one day at a time? Rich or poor, young or old, we all experience time in a sequence of days. We cannot jump ahead by a day or a year. We cannot recreate the past, as in the movie “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray, a self-centered fool, is given the opportunity to live the same day over (and over and over) until he gets it right. No. The days march by in line, one after another.

Who came up with such an arrangement? Well, God did. Although he lives outside of time, he set the cosmos in motion, and in so doing, set us into a world of time. So what? (we are tempted to think--until we consider that God looked upon all of his creation and said, "It’s good. It’s very good.”) In other words, the daily march of our lives, the day-upon-day progression of life, was set up by a loving Father for our good. He created the daily, but we have added the grind.

The Father’s good intentions aside, many of us feel trapped in the present moment. Our past has hemmed us in, our foolish choices have brought us this far, and the present moment feels like a prison. Others look forward from this present day and conclude the path of our lives is set. Forces are in play, and the future has been determined by someone else--which means our own lives are beyond control.

We’re not alone in these thoughts. Some of the greatest men of faith had remarkably bad days. Days in which they felt captured by the past or faced an uncertain future. Moses must have been having a really bad day when he began to pray the prayer in Psalm 90. God lives forever, said Moses, and we are lucky to hit eighty. Everything dies. Who knows? Maybe we can learn something: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Moses must’ve been a real buzz kill at parties. That is, until the Spirit of God hinted at what Jesus would teach years later: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) Moses began to get the message. The final verses of the Psalm/prayer begin to look up. God’s mercies are not yesterday’s mercies, and they are not some pipe-dream for tomorrow. They're here now. In the present moment.

I like to imagine Jesus reciting Psalm 90 while he walked in the Galilean countryside. I can see him watching plants putting forth flowers, birds finding food, feeling the breeze on his cheek. Jesus smiled, and perhaps wondered what Moses was getting so worked up about. Jesus launched a message about today. Today, he said, the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking in. Maybe it didn’t yesterday, who knows what’s up tomorrow, but the Spirit is bringing the righteousness, joy and peace of the Kingdom right now to those who turn, hear, and rejoice.

I hear in Jesus’ words a call to practice the discipline of the present moment. He’s not against the past: I think he encourages us to remember the past, but only so we can have confidence that God is with us today: What he did in days gone by, for others, he will do for us. He’s not against the future. Dave Ramsey can relax: I’m sure Jesus had a 401K retirement account. But he wasn’t invested in the future, his investment was all in the now. It’s common sense to learn from the past; it’s dangerous to live there. It’s prudent to plan for the future; it will drive you crazy to try to control it.

So we’re left with the wisest, most radical, sanest advice ever given:
“Seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
So for today, Peace!

4 comments:

  1. Great post on a challenging subject - living for today!

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  2. Today is all we have. If we're fretting over tomorrow or living in the past, we miss the wonderful time that is today. If something awful happened yesterday, don't let it pollute today as well. And speculating about tomorrow is just that. We don't know what tomorrow brings. Live life to the fullest today. Its all we have.

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  3. Thanks, Matt & Rachel.

    Preacherlady - The challenge for me is that Jesus also suggests the way to "live to the fullest" is to live for the Kingdom of God daily. I wonder if we really "have" today; i suspect he thinks it belongs to him.

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