Monday, October 19, 2009

Live In the Now, Man!

I’ve not been a big fan of the fall since my early 20’s. Not really sure why, but it just seems to be a fairly bleak season for me. Since getting married and starting a family, it’s been hard to not embrace some aspect of the fall as all other members of my family are born within a 3 week period during the fall. So, my disdain for the fall doesn’t really sit well with the rest of my family.

Always one to try to better myself and figure out how I can improve, I pondered some deep thoughts during a drive the other day. I was trying to figure out why I have this tendency to get so down in the fall. As I began to inwardly reflect, I made two observations about myself: 1) I have a tendency to always have a 5-year plan and 2) my 5-year plan takes my focus off of the “hear and now.” I know that it doesn’t sound like much, but it was pretty ground-breaking for me. I mean, who doesn’t want to plan for the future? Who doesn’t want to have a map of how things will play out in the next 5 years? Who doesn’t want that sense of security (albeit false)?

As I continued to reflect, I thought about the two extreme scenarios that I could find myself in. The first scenario is reflecting so much on the future that I completely neglect the present (which is sort of what I feel like I do sometimes). The other scenario is the complete engrossment in the moment that there is an almost irresponsible approach to the future: no plans, just go with the flow. Neither scenario really seems viable to me. My reflection led me to think of Jesus and his short 33 years of life on the earth.

If ever there was someone who had the potential of being focused on a future event, it was Jesus. Theologians differ on their opinion of whether or not Jesus truly knew his future and fate. The ones who question it base it on the fact that in order to become human, he needed to forego some of his divine attributes (i.e., omnipresence – Jesus could not be in two places at once). Regardless of that, he was pretty aware of what was going on considering that he specifically instructed people who he had healed to not speak of what had happened to anyone for fear of his death coming prematurely. But Jesus took advantage of every moment, every opportunity, every meeting that he had. He didn’t waste a minute. The most amazing thing about it is that while focusing on the moment, he never lost sight of his purpose and his mission: he still had his eyes on the future.

That focus on his mission also helped him to not be caught up in the moment. His perfection allowed him to not get bogged down in some of the things that you and I might find ourselves tempted by. He did things with purpose, he never did things to get attention first, that might have been a result, but it was never the main purpose.

It would be easy for me to say, “But he’s Jesus!” and that’s a pretty fair assessment. I’m not perfect, nor have I ever claimed to be. But, am I not to strive for perfection and Christ-likeness? What is my main mission and purpose in life? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. Everything that I do needs to be focused on that. Problem is, I live in a culture that is telling me that it’s all about me, that I need to know my future, that I need to plan it out accordingly because the future is really “in my hands.” Jesus said in Matthew 6, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'”

Again, there’s a fine line that we walk here between faith and responsibility, especially when we have families. But, if we look at a good portion of the world, I don’t think they’ve got their portfolios in order or their 401Ks all maxed out. In fact, some of them are barely making it through the day. They didn’t know how they were going to eat today, but somehow they made it. They’ll go to sleep, maybe lulled to sleep by the moans of their starving kids, and deal with tomorrow’s problems when…and if…they awake.

Yeah, it’s bleak. I told you, I don’t like the fall. But seriously, can we put things in perspective and realize that when we go about our lives in a purposeful and intentional way, living in the moment, we have the potential for having a huge impact for the future. If we get bogged down with our 5-year plans, we’ll miss a ton of opportunities that God throws our way, and we won’t ever get them back again.

May we learn from the one who taught us to keep our eye on the purpose while embracing every moment. May we, in the words of Thoreau, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”, allowing ourselves to be used by the one who knows what the future holds…and has the perfect 5-year plan all figured out.

Jeremiah 29:11, “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.“