Like many people, I have a lot of time to think and I’ve been mulling over my preoccupation with the past and the future at the expense of the present. The present is a bit boring and unattractive and I look backward at all the people and activities I am missing. I look forward to things returning to ‘normal’ (though my friend, who suffers with a whole cocktail of mental illnesses, says, “Normal is just a setting on a dryer!”) whatever the new ‘normal’ might look like.
It is natural, I guess, to spend time being nostalgic, looking back in melancholy at past activity or gazing into the foggy future imagining those activities. Past and future are vitally important to us and to the story of God in history.
In Revelation we have the reference to Jesus as Alpha, the first, and Omega, the last. These reference a past and future but the key to this reference is the “I am” part, which speaks of his eternal position in the present. When God first introduces himself to Moses he does so using the title “I am”. Jesus throughout the Gospel of John refers to himself as “I am”!
I do a disservice to myself when I live solely in the past or in the future. We are called to “occupy” (in the present) until “He comes” (the future). Today certainly does not hold the familiar opportunities but surely it holds opportunities. I have created ruts in which my life runs and when ‘normality’ is disrupted, as it surely is, then rather than bemoan the loss of the familiar I ought to creatively seek my new occupation.
How do I practise the present? I take the opportunity to “know Him”. God is eternal. God is infinite. This means that there is no end of ‘knowing him’. This week I was reminded of the Psalm where David pens “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you.” This is not just a cute way to phrase something. It describes a thirst which must be satisfied! This thirst is obviously the chief preoccupation of the psalmist. We often sing this but now in this time I have the opportunity to be occupied with slaking just this kind of thirst.
I could waste a unique opportunity by pining for the past or yearning only for a redeemed future or mindlessly entertaining myself. These would be the easy things. But can I choose the hard thing and spend a pandemic on pursuing Jesus.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
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