By Randy Millwood
We hear it every time we go to a fast food restaurant. The patron in front of us has placed her/his order, paid for it, and is given a receipt with an order number at the top. Afterwards they are promptly instructed to step aside and the 17–year-old food service professional looks straight at you and says, “Next?”
Or, we are sloshing our way through the interminable security lines at the local airport…waiting our turn. The TSA agent who is checking our identification credentials alongside of our ticket doesn’t even look up from the desktop. Instead… “Next?”
In my last blog I shared a little of our transitional journey – we are fully in change now. We are 6+ weeks out of our house. So we are, for all intents and purposes, homeless.
Our oldest son and his young family are practicing hospitality to the max – taking us in and adjusting their whole world (furniture, schedules, habits, etc.) to accommodate our old, set-in-our-ways, us.
There is a thread of news these days about the young adults who don’t leave home. In our case, it is the older adults who have “moved back in.”
One of the fringe benefits of this arrangement for us is: we get to hang out with our granddaughter.
She is pure delight – having wrapped her pop and delly securely around her little finger.
But, she is also a typically developing little kid.
And, the stage she is in right now is stretching her time continuum development.
She is learning the days of the week – their order – and where we are in that weekly rotation.
And she is practicing the concepts of
- Yesterday (which seems always to be already over)
- Tomorrow (which seems frustratingly ever-elusive)
- Today (which just never seems to end)
In her efforts to grasp these concepts, she enjoys breakfast chatter around the schedule of the day.
Her constant question is, “And what’s after that?”
Then, once the day has fully launched, her question becomes, “And what’s after this?”
It’s funny how we develop… She is growing into those questions. I am attempting to grow out of them.
You see, I’ve spent my entire life in the world of “What’s after that?”
- Kindergarten? “What’s after that?”
- Grade School? “What’s after that?”
- Junior High School? “What’s after that?”
- High School? “What’s after that?”
- College? “What’s after that?”
- Grad School? “What’s after that?”
[The last school I attended only thought they could stop me by calling it a terminal degree. Oh no – I asked, “What’s after that?” and discovered the great big world ofcertificates!]
Professionally I was called to a variety of positions to “help us reach _______ [insert goal here].”
And, once that goal was reached, I asked my question: “What’s after that?”
I moved from one sized organization to the next – from one position of influence to the next.
It was like my granddaughter’s world: What’s after that?
Now, here I sit, suddenly aware of how much I missed in this very moment simply because I was constantly evaluating the past and ceaselessly stretching into the future.
I was doing exactly what my culture conditioned me to do.
But I am not of this culture.
Some years ago now, God (have I mentioned that I am a follower of Christ?) began to prompt me about the place in time where I can meet with Him.
It is not the past or the future. It is here. Now. Today.
This is where God abides…the eternal present moment.
In one of the grandest stories of the Judeo-Christian journey, a leader (Moses) asks God for a Name… something to call Him. God’s answer was: I AM.
Scholars who specialize in ancient languages tell me that the form of the phrase used grasps ‘I was’ and ‘I will be.’ So, it is not limiting God to this moment.
But, it does speak to me.
This is the moment where I meet God, if I meet God at all.
I don’t actually live in the past or the future. I only live right now…if I live at all.
Jesus used a similar phrase when speaking of himself to a dear lady in the town of Sychar, Samaria. He said, “I AM Messiah.”
Holy Spirit inspired other writers of the Bible to note things like, “today is the day of salvation;” and “this is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
In some reading I recently came across this gem of wisdom:
“The vast majority of us suffer from amnesia of the present. We think that the real action is somewhere else. Some of us have lost touch with the present moment because we prefer to live in the past. We are forever mulling over yesterday – regretting it, analyzing it or glorifying it with nostalgia. Sentimentality, regret and guilt are the prices we pay when we live yesterday today. Others of us are always jumping ahead to the future: anxious about next weekend, planning next month, wondering about next year. With antacids in our pockets and ulcers in our stomachs, we race toward tomorrow. Anxiety and worry are the prices we pay when we leave the home of the present moment and try to live tomorrow today.” [Albert Haase]
I am surrounded by this very moment.
I am done with the failure to celebrate life now.
THIS is the place where I can meet God.
Won’t you join me?
Randy Millwood is team strategist for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s Church Wellness Center. Read more of his blog at http://simplymillwood.com.