“Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.” – Matthew 6:34a
About three years ago I got honest with myself and admitted that I wasn’t growing spiritually, and probably hadn’t been growing for a while. In Galatians 5 St. Paul suggests that when the Spirit is at work in our lives we’ll experience increasing love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. Truth was, I was experiencing less of those things. I immediately sought help from a spiritual director. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.
I’ve learned a lot from my spiritual director. One of the most impactful lessons has been practicing living in the “now”. With help I’ve become increasingly aware of how much time I spend mentally in the past, wallowing in my failures, nursing my grudges and celebrating my small victories. I’ve also become aware of how much time I spend in the future, worrying about what might be or longing for something more.
But here’s the truth: all we have is now, right now, this moment. All the time and energy we invest into the past or future is wasted because we can’t change the past and the future hasn’t yet arrived. Even more, I’ve discovered that “now” is where God is present and where God meets us. And the more aware I’ve become of God in the moment the more I’ve experienced love, joy, peace, patience and kindness.
This isn’t a new insight.
In the verses above Jesus taught his disciples to live now, today, not anxiously looking back or worrying about the future.
Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, wrote, “Only the present moment is real and available to us. The peace we desire is not in some distant future, but it is something we can realize in the present moment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way, “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.”
So, how’s your spiritual growth? Are you experiencing increasing amounts of love, joy, peace, patience and kindness over time? If not, let me encourage you to consider how much time you spend in the past or the future. Learning to live in the now, where God meets us, takes practice. A lot of practice. Honestly, it’s way harder than I ever imagine. But the rewards are pretty awesome.
Need a place to start? Pick one meal a day and practice being present. Focus on the flavor and texture of your food. Be present to the people around your table by turning off the electronics. And when your mind wanders…and it will because that’s what healthy minds do…simply bring it back to the moment.
Want to explore more? Check out Ekhart Tolle’s book “Practicing the Power of Now”.
Jeff Marian is Lead Pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.