What are you thinking about right now?
I find it interesting how our society really is set up to either look back (with professions or books that try to uncover the secrets of our past) or to look ahead (ever notice the Christmas decorations in stores displayed in August?!). I do think looking at the past can be helpful if we can learn from it and apply what we’ve learned to improve the present time. But so often, we tend to live in regret or guilt when looking at the past instead of letting Christ clean us up so that we can live in freedom from the past. Meanwhile, when we plan for an upcoming event there can be so much excitement and preparation. The actual event often speeds by and quickly becomes a blink of the past.
What really got me thinking about all this was a book by Gary L. Thomas. He was talking about treating your children like grandchildren. Instead of being concerned with their chores, grammar, their future, etc. to try and enjoy your children. I’ve often heard that grandparents feel they can enjoy their grandkids so much because they don’t have the stress of parenting them… “I can give them back” or “I’m not totally responsible for how they turn out” or “this is so much fun, now that I know what I’m doing” (maybe some grandparents out there can verify this for me). Now, the reality is, if you are a parent with children, that you are still responsible for and have to be concerned with their behaviour, homework, etc. I think the balance lies in being able to truly live in the right now for certain times that we set aside. Thomas writes “Why is it that when our kids are young, we can’t just sit back and enjoy the here and now? To forget about how small our house is, how frustrating the job is, how expensive everything is – and just, for once, to enjoy the moment, making it last by savoring each minute of the day? Why do we spend hours as though they were in limitless supply rather than the very finite number they are?… Every now and then, I want to be a grandparent - setting aside certain occasions when I’m just going to enjoy these children… "Treat yourself and your kids to a parenting “Sabbath” in which you live fully in the present moment, leaving future anxieties and concerns in God’s hands and drinking deeply of the joy of living for the here and now”. (p. 118-9, Devotions For Sacred Parenting, Gary L. Thomas).
So, why not plan an activity this week (or better yet, today) where you can be physically present with your children, as well as emotionally and mentally present? Nurture your relationship with them. The more a relationship is nurtured, the more easily instruction and correction will be accepted. The activity could be bike riding, playing a game, going out for ice cream, or asking your children what they’d like to do with you. It may take some discipline to push other thoughts away. But please, enjoy your kids for who God made them to be (not the little monkey they acted like 5 minutes ago or who you hope they’ll turn out to be 10 years from now). And who knows, maybe having some right now moments with your loved ones may help some of us shed some worries and have a little more fun than usual. Kids tend to be pretty good at helping us feel young again… if we let them.
This principal is not just at work in our relationship with our children. What other important relationships could you be more present in? Isn’t living right now a Biblical concept for everyone? How can it become more of a lifestyle? Isaiah 43:18-19 says “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I (God) am doing a new thing!” And Matthew 6:25 says “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”
The concept of living in the present has always been a challenge for me and most likely will continue to be long after the kids are out of the house. I like to have at least the next few meals in the fridge before I need it and to be somewhat organized. As I write this article, I feel a personal rebuke. When someone important in my life passes away, I find myself wanting to know how many days I have left on this planet. Would I live differently if I knew I only had a month to live? What about 50 years? I know that I don’t have the choice of knowing. How does that affect how I will live each day? I suspect God keeps the answer to this question a secret so that we don’t fixate on the end but rather focus on the right now and trust Him for our tomorrows. I am forgiven of my past and God knows my needs for the future… this is enough!
If you’ve made it this far, let me leave you with a quote from a man much wiser than I, that summarizes what I am trying to say…
"Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so." (p. 42, Pensees, Blaise Pascal)