When we dwell on the past or fixate on the future, we can’t make the most of the time we have. Let’s learn to fully live in the present.
When I was a little girl, for all practical purposes, I lived outside of time as we know it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my family lived on a small, sustainable farm without electricity, indoor plumbing, or other modern conveniences.Local school kids and youth camp groups used to come out to our homestead for field trips to literally see how the pilgrims used to live. Except my family wasn’t just reenacting history, we were living it!
In lieu of electric lights, we showed the kids how we rendered beeswax and paraffin for hand dipped candles to light our home. Rather than driving to the local grocery store, we explained how all our food came from our farm–eggs from the chicken coop, meat from the animals we hunted or butchered, vegetables from our gardens, and fruit and berries from the orchard. And instead of looking at a watch or clock to check the time, we noted the angle of the shadows cast by the sun as it made its trajectory across the sky. We understood that time existed, but we were not slaves to it. We were simply living and doing the work that was necessary to survive.
Behind or ahead?
When I compared our lifestyle to that of our neighbors in their modern homes,it felt as if we were living a century behind. But as I observe today’s trends of doing it yourself (DIY), going green, and living sustainably, it appears as if my folks were about a generation ahead of their time when they moved off the power grid in the early 1970’s. Today, people are returning to methods that a decade or so ago would have seemed old fashioned. Folks are choosing environmentally friendly health and beauty products instead of chemically produced ones. They’re growing vegetables in their own backyard gardens and eating whole organic food rather than processed products. And they’re using essential oils and other natural remedies rather than relying so heavily on pharmaceuticals. It’s as if history is repeating itself.
That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past.
Ecclesiastes 3:15, NKJV
A reckoning with time…
It’s as if we in the western world are in the midst of a reckoning with time. In the name of convenience and productivity, we’ve created a whole host of environmental, social, and health problems that we’re trying to dig our way out of. And time seems more elusive than ever. No matter how many time-saving strategies and gadgets we develop, no one seems to have enough time to accomplish all that they want to in a day.
People are stuck in the past, worried about the future, and don’t know how to live fully in the present. It’s like we are all little figurines in one of those old fashioned cuckoo clocks. Everyone’s rushing in and out of little trap doors and screaming cuckoo all the time. Before the hands of the clock fly off and hurt someone, let’s pause and consider how the Lord invites us to regard this time that He gives us.
Dwelling on the past…
We’re encouraged not to dwell on the past, but so many people seem to be stuck there. Whether it’s regret about a decision that we made or resentment for someone who hurt us, we can re-live old wounds over and over again. Others might dwell on seemingly positive things from the ‘golden years’ of their youth. That can’t be harmful, right? Actually, yes, it can be if we’re looking back nostalgically on years gone by and pining for things that are no more.
Dwelling on the past trains our minds and our souls to sort and filter for similar kinds of experiences in the present. Then we wonder why the same destructive patterns that have wreaked havoc in our families for generations keep repeating themselves. Or we lament the fact that our current life never quite seems to measure up to the memories we’ve created and recreated in our mind’s eye. But beloved, when we are reborn, we are made new in Christ. And if we will let Him, the Lord wants to do a new thing in our lives.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV
And in Isaiah, we learn that we should literally forget the past:
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43: 18-19, KJV
Fixating on the future…
Just as scripture instructs us not to live in the past, it also warns against fixating on the future. Often our uncertainty about what is to come breeds anxiety and worry. But we learn that worry does not help us get through today.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34, NIV
Rather than worrying what the next day will bring, we are to make the most of each day. Just like the manna, or the daily bread, that the Israelites would receive every morning in the desert, we are given 24 hours of time daily. We can’t stretch those hours out any longer, and we can’t save any of them either. What we can do is trust that what is coming will be good, because God promises us that it will be:
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.
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
Indeed, He is leading us somewhere even better than we can arrange for ourselves or really even imagine:
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9, KJV
Living in the present…
With no regret from the past or fear of the future, we are free to fully live in the present. And that’s where the Lord invites us to reside. With Him.
To live in His presence in every moment. To learn to walk daily with Him, trusting that He is ordering our steps. To know that He will shoulder our burdens if we’ll cast our cares on Him. To trust that He will feed us like the sparrows and clothe us like the lilies of the field. To experience the joy that He has set before us. To taste and see that He is good in the land of the living. To enjoy and make the most of our time with our loved ones. To win souls for the kingdom. To live out the desires that He has placed in our hearts. To believe that He is Immanuel “God with us.” Right now.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11, NKJV
How are you making the most of this day? Have you left the past behind? Are you rooting your hope for the future in Jesus?
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