We may often hope for future, or long to relive a moment from the past, but the Christian call is to love the present moment no matter the circumstances.
Recently at work I was posed the question, “If you could live in any other period of time and in any other location, where and what time period would you go to?” As a history nut, my mind went racing to all the momentous moments of history, especially moments relating to US history or the Church's history. This led me into the mindset of “it would have been incredible to witness this, I wish I could go there now.” Now this is a fair thought, but through reading “The Way of Trust and Love” by Fr. Jaques Philippe I found a greater appreciation for the present.
Many of us often look back on our lives and wish we could rewind to a specific moment or memory. Likewise, we may often look forward in anticipation for today’s reality and trials to disappear. Now neither of these thoughts are inherently bad, but they also are not healthy mindsets in which we should live life. My challenge for all of us, and the purpose of this reflection, is that we would fall in love with the present moment.
Patience with God
I can admit from personal experience, this is easier said than done. It is especially hard to do so when we are undergoing specific trials, whether it be illness, repetitive sin and shame, or any other onslaught of things. Before we fall in love with the present moment, we must first understand the steps we can actively take to foster this love. First, we must have patience with God’s plan and timing. I am always told to be patient towards others, but very few times do I consider my patience in regards to God. This first starts with understanding the nature of God and how He works, rather than how we think He should work. Namely, that God is working even when we aren’t aware of it. God is not human and to expect Him to act, speak, or move us in human ways will only lead us into frustration. He is purely divine and so are His actions. Putting Him in the box of working and interacting with us in a human way will lead us into further discontent. A great act of trust we can copy from the book I cited earlier is, “I trust you. I leave this situation in your hands, and I know you’ll look after it.” We can learn to grow in patience and trust when we make these small acts of trust by slowly detaching from our own plans and letting God work in silence. We may not see, hear, or witness the work everyday, but we can find rest in knowing that work is still being done on His end.
Be Honest with Yourself
Next, it is important for us to be brutally honest with ourselves: honest about where we are at the moment, what it is we are struggling with, and where there is room to grow. We cannot even begin to hope for the finish line if we don’t first know where the starting line is. Admittedly this can be a challenging task to complete. When I do this it seems like a mountain of my faults are in front of me and separating me from God. This is where St. Therese’s idea of “littleness” comes in handy. Through this we come to love our inner poverty and understand why our weaknesses are what they are. We do so by seeing God truly as a Father and us as His little children. As a Father, He mercifully looks down at us, picks us up when we scuff our knee, and heals the wound. Personally, this mindset has helped me understand why I fall. Typically it is sourced from an over-dependence on my own strength, rather than that of the Fathers. I grew up asking God to make me strong. Now, I understand that it isn’t a matter of me growing in strength, but allowing my Father to stand up for me and alongside me in my fights. We can grow in acceptance of our weaknesses, and then truly see the situation with clear vision. This then allows us to discern what direction to go next in our spiritual journey, trusting that our Father will gently nudge us in the right direction.
Time for Action
Lastly, I want to emphasize being in love with the present is not an invitation into complacency. It is easy to slip into the temptation of being okay with the present and using it as an excuse for our faults persisting. Although we may struggle with persistent faults, falling in love with the present should always lead us into action. When we understand where we are, we can more clearly see how to get to where we want to go. I am extremely process oriented and have always been a “day by day” thinking person. If we hold ourselves to the standard of perfect holiness, we will constantly despise the where we are at when we commit even the slightest fault. We must do only today’s work and not worry ourselves with the work to come. Holiness is like a mountain, we desire to reach the top, but we cannot get there any other way than to put one foot in front of the other and slowly climb. This love for the present takes us to a point of understanding who and where we are, as well as who the Father is and how we can come closer to Him. We can find hope in doing today’s work, not worrying ourselves with tomorrow’s, and creating a plan of action so that we can continue to progress in the right direction.