Word Magazine December 2001 Page 14
LIVING IN THE PRESENT TENSE
By Very Rev. Stephen Rogers
There are probably no two things that rob people of the joy of living and the experience of God’s blessings more easily than remembrance of the past and worry about the future.
Some live unhappy lives wrapped in anger and resentment over past wrongs. The memory of an offense committed in the past, or an event that left them hurt or disappointed, grips their day-to-day life and colors it in anger and resentment. The inability to forgive or forget causes them to see the world as owing them something. So blinded are they by this anger that they fail to see all the good things that surround them every day. Rather than experiencing today, they dwell on the past and with each passing day become more angry, more resentful and more cynical.
Others live in fear and anxiety over the future. What will tomorrow bring? Will I be provided for? Will I live or die? Will I accomplish what I need to achieve? Will old age be a horror or a joy? They are infected with what one priest friend describes as “what-if-it-is.” Like those angry at the past, those who are overly concerned about the future lose sight of the good things that surround them everyday.
Others, rather than being angry at the past or anxious about the future, are self-assured that their past — accomplishments, accumulation of wealth, position in life or status of birth — assures them of a secure future.
Whether we see our past and future as sources of sorrow or security we risk making a serious mistake. The gospel reading for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost tells the story of a certain rich man. In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells us:
The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself saying,
“What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and goods. And I shall say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry. “ But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul shall be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided? So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.
No matter what our past, no matter what we think the future might bring, there is ultimately only one important thing. What am I doing right now, today? God told the rich man, “Fool! This night your soul shall be required of you.” The message is clear. All we really can be sure of is today. The past is gone and the future may never be. What are we doing today? Are we living our lives for God, immersed in the blessings of today?
Many years ago I asked an elderly man if he was having a good day, He looked me in the eye and said, “Young man, every day above ground is a good day!” He wasn’t paralyzed worrying about the length of life ahead of him or the amount of life already spent. “Today is the day the Lord hath made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” The truth is, if we live each day aware of God’s blessings, the future will take care of itself. “Today is the day of salvation.” So let us take hold of today.
If our past hurts us there is a cure. If our future scares us, there is a source of security: Jesus Christ — the same yesterday, today and forever. Every day is a shower of blessings. If we count them, we will have little time to dwell on the past or the future. Live today for God: that is what is required of us. Do this, and everything else will be taken care of.