Written on December 5th, 2010

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.” ~ William Wordsworth

I have always had a special love for the Fall. There is a life-inspiring vividness to this season of, ironically, retreating life and natural death. The menagerie of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns painting the landscape, as leaves dance along with the subtle tune of the autumn breeze captivates the eyes. The stark contrasts of light and dark speckle the landscape, as a channeled spectrum of sunlight penetrates patchwork treescapes. It encourages me to take in its beauty. I seek to be outside to indulge in it; many times by enjoying a casual jog.

On one such awe-inspiring Fall day, as I was struggling through the hills of my neighborhood, gasping for breaths of crisp autumn air, I began to think of the gradually increasing sense of fatigue and pain overcoming my body. In thinking of what was to come, I lost perspective of the present for a moment…

…but in this specific instance, I started to reflect on my days running along the narrow roads of Gloucester as a teenager. I was playing high school soccer and basketball, running anywhere from eight to twelve miles most Summer days. Being blessed to have been raised in a town with excellent air quality, minimal traffic, and lots of scenic beauty; running was a perfect release from this teenager’s constantly tormenting enemy: angst. During some of these runs, I would have to endure the excruciating pain of shin splints or ‘stitches’ in my ribs. Back then, however, I found a way to fight through these pains: prayer. It worked in getting me through those moments. The three most common times of prayer for me as a teenager were at church, immediately before sleeping, and when running. These moments, as a teenager, were when God was most palpable to my soul’s embrace.

Church and prayer go hand-in-hand. While we are to live in constant worship of God—and though I can’t say I consistently succeed—church is the place where I have always been able to praise God within community. Going to God with praise and prayer—and remorseful repentance for sin—just came easier while at church with fellow Christians.

I have always felt most vulnerable—and logically so—during sleep. As I believe many children from Christian families have been taught, I kneel and pray prior to crashing in bed each evening. Maybe that is why I have always been fortunate to regularly get deep, restful sleep. It just reassures me that my Father is looking over me while I have my eyes closed…now, if only I got more of it…

…and then there is running. It was an escape from the everyday anxieties that overwhelmed me frequently while in high school. The more success I had academically or athletically, the more insecure I became. The standards I held for my identity at that time were more performance-oriented in nature than presently. It felt like I was building this beautiful, marble staircase that went to nowhere. One day, I believed I would try taking one more step up the staircase and plunge to my demise. Failure becomes more noticeable when you earn recognition. My successes led me away from the present moment, and encouraged me to stress about the future—performance-oriented identities are known to fall into this trap.

Sometimes, I wonder how much our past and our future are used by the devil to deceive us into worshiping false idols—most often, ourselves. We are told to not have anxieties on the future, but to trust in the Lord always.  Yet, how often are we comparing the present to our past? How regularly do we create numerous scenarios for how our future will play out? How often do we neglect the present moment?

We should consider our past, and learn from it, when acting in the present.  Further, I believe it is wise to have an eye on the future when making decisions, as long as God is THE primary focus of that future.

I have no idea why the present is called ‘the present,’ but I would like to think that it is because it is a ‘present,’ or gift. And like any good gift that we receive, we should be joyous as we open it…continuously during our lifetime. We should be in constant worship of God. Another thing we should do with any good gift: Use it productively. The last thing we should do is be neglectful of what we have been provided…

…so going back to running…praying to God puts my thoughts towards Him…gives me hope…gives less meaning to the pain I feel…

…scripture tells us that God would never give His child a snake (Luke 11:11), when they ask for a loaf of bread. God loves us as a father loves his children. I have two thoughts about God based on this belief. The first is that sometimes God does not provide to us what we want at times, because what we ask for is not for the best. We could have noble intentions, but we cannot see the big picture that God does. We can only, at best, see forward in this life–not the one to come. How many times have you seen parents tell their kids no to something they sought because it would not be beneficial to them?  Why would God not act likewise with us?

Second, maybe we are provided what we ask for many times, yet fail to realize it because it was given to us in a way we failed to anticipate or understand. There is a scene in the movie “Evan Almighty,” where God in disguise (played by Morgan Freeman) tells Evan’s wife—who had just left Evan because she thought he was crazy for building an ark—that when someone prays for courage, it is not that the person becomes courageous instantaneously, but that the person is provided the opportunity to be courageous. He continues by saying that if a person asks for a close-knit loving family, maybe that person is provided the opportunity to have a close-knit, loving family…

…maybe God, whether you believe in predestination or not, seeks for us to be a player in our own story. It may be possible that He sees what you are going to choose…but you still have to choose. What is the worst thing that can happen to me if I take initiative to do something for the glory of God–that adheres to His Word? Even if I am wrong, does not God ultimately turn all things to His glory anyway? But, regardless, does not possessing holy intentions supply some beneficence in my life?

How often I have commented on wanting to make change in various aspects of my life? How often have I heard similar statements from others? Does it normally happen?

I believe that change can truly occur in an instance…but there is a reason why it rarely does: Us. We may realize that we should change, but the truth is that few of us really want to change. The hardest choice anyone can make is to detour from what you know–even if we do not like what or who we know. Typically, such detours–while leading to long-term benefit–will cause short-term hardship. It is a scary journey that I believe many of us are afraid of starting, because we are afraid of failure in completing it. We all need to be sanctified–and with a commitment to serious change, that lifelong process only becomes more intense as our awareness to our failings is more palpable. Thus, we all need God–and we cannot finish that journey of transformation without Him. Yet…where do many of us place God in our lives? We should all want to be with God, but how many of us exhibit that reality on a consistent basis with our thoughts and actions? I wish I could give the desired answer, but there are occasions where I put other things above God—sometimes myself—even when I know that there is no value in doing it…

…I hope those occasions continue to lessen as I grow and mature in my faith–as I choose to be closer to Him and walk within the fires of sanctification.

Therefore, the present is just that…a present. It is the constant moment provided by God to take initiative for holy change. Seek God at all times. Constantly worship God. Do not dwell on the past. Do not overly concern yourself with the future. God gave us His Son (John 3:16; Romans 5:8), which gave us the opportunity for a living present. Embrace the gift.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s