Monday, November 4, 2019

Living for the Moment – Or Living in the Moment?

Ready or not, we’re officially immersed into the Christmas season. Retail stores, from Cracker Barrel to Hobby Lobby, have unveiled their holiday finest, 2019 edition: Trees brightly adorned. Snowy tabletop baubles and red-and-green finery in vast array. Familiar carols serenading us as we stroll through festively decorated malls. TV commercials bombarding us with “must haves” for our very special somebodies.

With these constant reminders, many of us already are anticipating magical moments. I know the Hallmark Channels are – around Christmastime, with them everything’s “magical.” Young ones envision Christmas morning, awakening to a tree surrounded by brightly wrapped gifts containing wonders soon to be revealed. Enticing aromas wafting from the kitchen, previewing a scrumptious dinner culminating with pies and other sweet delicacies. Over the next weeks the words, “I can’t wait!” will be uttered countless times.

Lots of people live for these moments. Of course, moments aren’t limited to Christmas or other holidays. We can live for the moment that we’ll depart for a long-awaited vacation. Brides – and grooms – live for the moment they arrive at the wedding site, exchange “I do’s,” and begin a journey together as husband and wife. A professional person might live for the moment when he or she earns the coveted title of “partner,” the reward for excellence, hard work and dedication to the firm.

The thing about moments, however, is that we await them for so long, then so quickly they’re gone. Here today – gone today. Then we’re left to consider what our next “moment” should be. 

Recently I heard someone suggest an alternative: Instead of living for the moment, why not try living in the moment?

Many of us tend to be future-oriented, always planning and preparing for something in the weeks or months ahead. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to embrace upcoming activities and events with expectancy. But there’s a danger of becoming so preoccupied by days yet to come that we neglect to recognize opportunities of the day at hand.

In the Bible we read a lot about the future. It speaks about eternity, and life after death. Jesus said much about His return, His “second coming.” But the Scriptures also talk about the here and now, not becoming so future-focused that we become presently impoverished. 

For instance, Ephesians 5:16 warns about, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Or as a different translation phrases it, “making the most of your time.” In His most celebrated public message, the so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus spoke about the dangers of going about our daily lives fearful of what might or might not occur in the future: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

One aspect of this could be concentrating so much on what lies over the horizon that we find ourselves stumbling over good things right in front of us. An example was when Jesus spent time in the home of sisters Mary and Martha. Apparently a consummate hostess, Martha was preparing the dinner she would serve. Her sister, however, “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

The passage continues, “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-41).

Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha for her kindness in cooking a hearty meal, but was simply showing her that while she had been living for the moment, Mary realized the value of living in the moment. After all, how often did Jesus stop by one’s house for a personal visit?

Pondering the comparison between living in the moment vs. living for the moment, I think of a man I heard of, boasting about the significant estate he was amassing, intending to leave it all for charitable purposes upon his death. Although such intentions are laudable, I couldn’t help thinking about how much good his financial and material resources could accomplish for people right now, rather than delaying such assistance for years later. 

Proverbs 3:27-28 seems to address this when it admonishes, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’ – when you already have it with you.”

Without question, it’s fun living part of the time for special moments – a favorite holiday, birthday or anniversary, or the vacation you’ve always dreamed about. But what about this moment? Right now? It could be holding some of the best memories of all.

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