August 18, 2008

by Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

A lot of people live in the past. Those who remember the “glory daysâ€? that have long gone feel a sense of nostalgia for those good ole’ times. Sentences that start off with “It’s not like it used to be,â€? and “I remember when…â€? imply that the past was so much better than the now. You don’t necessarily have to be old to have lived some golden years. My thirteen year old daughter, Lauren, sighs when she remembers her sixth grade year:  “The best year of my life.â€?

Some people live in the past, because they are unable to break with past pain and failure. It’s not that they want to relive it. It’s just that they can’t get past the past. I once heard this description that makes sense to me: In some places, when it rains hard and people drive on dirt roads, they create deep ruts that then dry out. Until the next rain, you’re stuck with that rut. Every time you take that road, your tire finds the rut, and you have to ride it to the end.  In the same way, our minds have been down some paths so long, they’ve become well worn, familiar, deep ruts. Once we start down that path in our minds, we’re stuck re-treading the same territory, even if we already know that it leads to a no-good ending.

Some people live for the future. Six year old Luc Young, coming to California for his summer vacation, told me as he got off the plane, “Tomorrow I’m going to Disneyland.â€? His mother corrected him, “No, that’s next week.â€?  When I saw Luc the next Monday, he announced, “Tomorrow I’m going to Disneyland.â€? Once again he was corrected, “No, that’s Thursday.â€? Apparently, every day that week he woke up thinking that tomorrow was the great day, and he was really, really looking forward to it. Tomorrow was taking so long in coming!

There is a heavy emphasis in Christian teaching on the glorious future that awaits us, and some people just can’t wait for it to come. I often read the deeply meaningful and throat-catching verses of Rev. 21:3-4 to believers whose health has so declined, or whose years are so advanced, that they are waiting their own death, knowing that it will be soon. “See, the home of God is among mortals.  He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.â€? As I read, I look at their faces, and most times there’s a smile, joy and longing glistening in their eyes. Most times, there’s intent concentration as I read these words, an almost palpable clinging to these words of promise.  The distant hope is finally just around the corner. They can almost touch it.

It takes a very conscious effort to live in the now. That’s probably because so much of life is mundane.  We’d prefer a little more excitement. There’s a lot to put us off of living now—avoidance of something unpleasant that must be tackled; boredom with what we have going on; ingrained habits that take us mentally to a different place and time; resistance to living through a period of pain and suffering; or perhaps we just don’t happen to like life right now—why be there for it?

There’s a reason why the now is called “the present.â€? This, right now, is God’s gift to us. Life in whatever shape it happens to be, is given to us by God. The richness and reality of life experienced in the now cannot be experienced if we don’t also go through the blah or ugly times. Precious life is lost if we take the shortcuts of avoidance or fantasy.

To deal with the past, we have God’s amazing forgiveness and grace. To deal with the future, we have God’s abundant promises and hope. And for now, we have God’s presence.  All of those gifts of God are summed up in one word, “salvation.â€? God’s salvation is not only something that happened to us in the past (we have been saved), or something to look forward to (we will be saved).  Salvation is very much a “nowâ€? thing (we are saved). “God says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on the day of salvation I have helped you.’ See, NOW is the acceptable time; see, NOW is the day of salvation!â€? II Cor. 6:2  Breathe!  Hang out in the present. Look around, notice, and see. Live.  Live the now as your present from God.