Tuesday night our life group had our weekly meeting. We are working our way through C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. It was my turn to teach. This week’s lesson was about Satan’s followers debating whether to encourage the humans to relax during the lull in World War II or to keep them anxious about what is coming next. The humans live in time, the Enemy (in this case, God; from the point of view of the demons) wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity, and the present.
The present is the point at which time touches eternity. Only in the present can humans experience God’s reality because He lives outside of time. Only in the present can humans experience the freedom and actuality that are offered to them. God would have humans continually concerned with Him or with the present – either meditating on their eternal union with Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.
The crux of the lesson is that, while Satan’s minions would have us focus on the past, or better yet, the future, God would have us to live in the present, looking toward eternity. To live focusing on the future inflames hope and fear, and the future is least like eternity. To focus on the future is an unreality, something we can only imagine, and causes us to be complacent, or to fret and worry and be anxious about what may happen.
Jesus addresses this issue pretty clearly in Matthew 6:31-34:
Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ For the Gentile eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [ His way of doing and being right – the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
So after preparing to teach, I thought about this lesson in light of living in the present and especially in this present of COVID-19. Living life in the right now is not an easy task for me. My mind is constantly running, and much too often, it races into the future before I even realize it. I’m asking God to teach me more of what it looks like to live in an awareness of the present. What am I learning so far?
- Be aware of the world around me – the people and all of creation.
- Be thankful and appreciative of the beauty of all of God’s provision in every moment.
- As far as I am able, attend to the needs of people around me.
- When tempted to worry about the future, stop and ask God, with thanksgiving and with confidence, for my current need.
I have been particularly blessed as I have observed many of you living in this current present. After Sunday night’s prayer meeting discussion about the number of residents at Carolina Meadows who are associated with the Bible Church, someone called the church office on Monday morning to find out who they were so that notes could be written. Dwight and I really felt cared for when a college student sent a message asking if we needed someone to pick up anything for us and offering to do so if we were not able to get out. I know from watching Facebook that lots of you are paying attention to the family, friends, neighbors, and beyond and doing what is needed when possible.
I’d like to challenge all of us in this time, too, to be mindful of what God might be doing during this extraordinary moment in history. There are difficult things happening. How would God be having us to be praying, to be involved with what He is doing? Be careful not to look so far into the future that we miss what God is doing in the present.
How easy is it for you to live in the present?