Both the past and future have their potential uses, one can provide precedence and the other can provide motivation. Yet, the past and future are not what we are called to dwell in, that honor is reserved for the present. I am not talking about the superficiality of a “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) lifestyle. Living in the present isn’t about rushing off and thoughtlessly partying, having casual sex, or taking part in extreme sports. Living in the present is about something much deeper, and ultimately more rewarding.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34
One of the reasons we are called to live in the present is because the present, quite simply, has enough stress for us. If we choose to worry about the future, as well as the present, we are likely to feel overwhelmed and possibly hopeless. We have to be able to compartmentalize and worry about just one or two things at a time. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have foresight or be prepared for what may come. What it does mean is that we should focus on what is happening now while also preparing for what may be down the road. The key concept about the future is that it isn’t happening now, which means we have time to take a breath and prepare.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – Corinthians 5:17
“Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” – Ecclesiastes 7:10
If we focus on what has already come to pass, it can be easy to get caught up in thinking our best days are behind us. “The good old days” can leave us feeling like our future holds less hope. However, taking an honest look at past events can help us to judge what has worked for us and might work for us again. The past can be a valuable tool when making current decisions, especially on large scales such as government and policy. An example of properly using our past would be slavery. As a country, we are highly unlikely to ever allow slavery to be legalized again because we can look back and be reminded of how terrible it was for those who were slaves.
When we take the time to slow down and focus on the here and now we open ourselves up to the people and events around us. It becomes easier to take time to listen to, and learn about, the people in our lives. This helps us to see people for who they are, individuals with feelings, fears, opinions, and experiences trying to forge their way through life as best they can. We can then use this clearer perception to help those around us and be a better dad, mom, brother, sister, son, daughter, etc. So take the time to be mindfully in the present, your own life will become more enjoyable and you just might improve the lives of those around you as well.