Living in the Present Moment

Aug 26, 2019


We live in an age of great anxiety and fear and dislocation of the basic principles of our democracy. If we are wise, we will allow that fear and anxiety and dislocation to bring us right to the present moment, to the presence of God in every moment, where He can reveal the joy that is extant in His creation always. For it is in the present moment that we are most alive, most attuned to all that is being offered to us, most dedicated to the will of God, because we have set aside all our own stuff—preferences, expectations, angers, fears and willfulness in favor of sitting with God.


It is also true of being with other people: when we are present to them, we don’t miss anything that they are saying, we just are with them just where they are. This is love for God and for the other person. Focusing outside of ourselves validates the worth of other person and shows our real interest in who they are and in what they have experienced in life. This is love.


The Bible offers us “the still, small voice”[1] of God or the instruction to “Be still and to know that I am God.”[2] Or this among other references: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”[3]Stillness before God, before what is, without our own personal lens– leads us to living in the truth, to full aliveness, to the grace and openness and gifts of the present moment which engage us far more that any other thing we will ever experience in our lives. It means we have left behind our own personal lens on life, our own ways of thinking, so that we are focusing our attention on God and on whatever is happening right here, right now.


To be present is to bring your full self to God, your good points and your difficulties, your doubts and fears, your gifts and talents, all of who you are both human and divine. And in those moments there is only the wholeness of who you are and the whole Presence, the Holy Spirit, of God. And in those moments, there is healing and grace and blessings and truth and invitation to a greater life. And the more that we exist in the present moment, the more our lives open up to the fullness of who God created us to be.


Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, in telling his life story, writes of three things that keep us from living in the present.[4] “The first is to hold on to what is past—especially memories…by clinging to the past, one belongs to the past.” It is so easy to hold on to past hurts, as well as great memories, even to deny the past, but each of these actions leads to living in the past.


“The second reason for missing the present moment is anger—or rather the impatience of anger…impatience is the destructive aspect of anger; one wants to force a certain kind of future and—occupied with the future—fails to live in the present.”


“The third possibility is that one is neither holding on to the past nor impatiently reaching for the future, and yet misses the present by not being awake. The drowsiness that makes us miss the Now is what the desert fathers called the ‘Noonday Demon…’spiritual dozing is a great danger.”


To come into the present moment means that we have to become distanced from, come to be only observers of, the thoughts that would engage us, the loudest voices in our minds and from the powerful lens through which we view all life. It’s a real stretch for us who are totally engaged in our own thoughts. But when we learn that those thoughts are not the truth about us, we discover that it is just how we experienced what we learned about ourselves from our parents and siblings and teachers, plus the sum total of the culture’s values. Then we have the choice about whether to follow the repetitive thoughts in our mind which are never about the present moment or God, for that matter, to dig deeper into ourselves for our truer, freer nature which God implanted in us so that we can hear God’s “still, small voice”[5] within.


All the seed parables, all the references to seeing and hearing that Jesus spoke of so often, are His invitations to us to live fully in the presence of God. If his invitations fall on hard ground or on deaf ears and blind eyes, then we are ignoring all the ways He would draw us into His presence. We need to move from total engagement with our own point of view into an openness to see and hear, to provide the right soil for, all that Jesus would call us to, would have us do, all that He has in mind for each of us. Isn’t there a hunger in each of us, a yearning to live freely in God’s presence, to be free of all that would bind us to this world? How will we each answer God’s call? Living in the past or in the future? Or being asleep to God’s presence, to His invitations? Or living in the present?


It is our choice how we respond to Jesus’ calls, but first we have to look for all these invitations throughout our days, and as we see each one, to respond as best we can. The Lord will help us hear and see, if we will but open ourselves up to Him, if we repent and seek to turn around our lives—with His mighty help, of course!


Questions to ponder over the week:  Am I fully present to God at least sometimes during my days? Can I hear His “still, small voice”[1 Kings 19:12] within my mind? Do I recognize it, listen for it throughout my days? Do I do what He suggests, trusting in His love and care for me? If I don’t, what would I need to do to hear His voice?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who hear and heed God’s suggestions for us. May we listen in all that we do and say for His word. May we live in peace and love with everyone.


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[1] 1 Kings 19:12

[2] Psalm 46:10

[3] Exodus 14:14

[4] David Steindl-Rast, I am through you so I, Paulist Press, New York, 2017 p. 129-130

[5] 1 Kings 19:12

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