Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Too many of us live in the past or the future. We are not in the present. Our thoughts, our desires, our affections — they are always elsewhere, in a different world, a different time. It’s almost as though we are afraid of the present moment, of living in the here and now. We would rather live in the past, where there is no longer any uncertainty. The past is settled, it is finished, it is clear. There are no question marks about the past. Or we wander into the future, because the future doesn’t have the monotony of the present moment. The future has limitless possibilities, whereas the present moment is boring. But a deeper look will show us how flawed these thought processes are.
The present moment is the only one that is ever real. The past is gone and therefore, like the future, it only exists in our mind. To be real, we must live in reality. We must rescue ourself from the past or the future, so as to live in the present moment. God works in the present, in the here and now, in reality. God’s grace will always help and sustain us, but God’s grace can only work in the present. Again, the past and the future are not real. God’s grace doesn’t work in the past or in the future. True, God’s grace will sometimes use the past to help us, or it will prepare us for what’s coming in the future. God can inspire us with contrition or with confidence through consideration of our past sins or of past experiences of His loving providence. But His grace always works in the here and now, at this moment. There is no point in worrying if we have been trusting or confident in the past, nor in troubling ourself about whether we will be true to Him in the future. What God is looking for is our trust, and love, and contrition now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. Today. Right now. At this moment. Besides, that is all that we have any control over, what we do with ourself at this very second.
The present moment is rather beautiful. It has both the stability of the past and the infinite possibilities of the future. It has the stability of knowing that God is here, that He is still God, that He loves us, loves us infinitely and unceasingly, as we are here and now, with all of our faults, shortcomings, and hesitations. We wouldn’t be here right now if that weren’t the case. But even though it has this stability, it is not stagnant. No, it is dynamic. It has the infinite possibilities of the future, because we never know what God will do or ask of us here and now. Each new present moment is a boundless opportunity for God’s grace and providence to work. Who will He send our way in the next few seconds? What graces will He be offering to us? What strength or help will He give to others through the little things of our daily duty that we offer to Him? Only God knows, but He shares some of this knowledge with us as each new moment comes into our life and then quickly escapes our grasp.
The present moment is so elusive. It departs as quickly as it came. This is a reminder to us that God is ever new. His grace and love for us are always fresh. They are perfectly exact and specific for us and our needs in this particular moment. It’s true that at every second we find ourselves different. But that’s fine. The graces of the next moment will be precisely what the “different” us needs. This is what it means for God to be God. He knows from all eternity exactly what we will need at every single step along our journey. No split second of our life escapes His knowledge. Not one iota of our thoughts, affections, joys, sorrows, needs, or fears escapes His knowledge or His love. He is God.
Let us ask for a deeper desire and love of what Chesterton called the “intoxication of existence.” Let us learn from our past and plan for our future, but let us always do these things in the present. We will only find peace, and joy, and stability in the present, by being fully aware of what this moment is ever bringing us of God’s love and grace.