For most of my life, I have categorized myself as a “present” person. Some people consider themselves futuristic, while others tend to dwell in the past. Me? I’m usually pretty content with where I’m at.
At 4:07 p.m. on March 11, I received word from my college that classes would be moved online. We were expected to pack up our belongings and move out of our dorms ASAP. In that moment, I became a “past” person. I immediately pined after the days of old (OK, just the day before) when we could squeeze friends around the table in the dining hall. When we could engage in debate from across the classroom. Spend hours huddled on the couch, talking late into the night. Sit in a packed auditorium, cheering on friends at their latest extracurricular extravaganza.
For the next several weeks, I sat in my basement, staring grumpily at my laptop screen for hours on end. Interacting with a grainy, choppy video of my classmates and professors was not the same as being with them in person. I compared everything to what it would have, could have, should have been if only everything was like it had been. My head was completely consumed with the past, which made living in the present realities pretty unpleasant.
Slowly and subconsciously, I realized that I couldn’t will the past back into reality — but I still wasn’t happy with my present circumstances. And so I became a “future” person. I became convinced that everything exciting resided in the future, when things “returned to normal.” I looked forward to the days that I would once again get to sit around a table with friends, pack into a crowded arena, sit in a classroom or an office.
The problem with living in the future is that my projections and predictions are usually pretty far off. The dream world that I anticipate is by no means guaranteed — something that was quickly confirmed in this case.
At the beginning of the summer, my college sent out information on what the upcoming fall semester would look like. Let’s just say it’s nothing like what it was last year, and nothing like what I hoped it would be. Masks, social distancing, regulated foot traffic patterns, restricted gatherings. I was big-time bummed.
But then came the conviction.
All at once, I became painfully aware of the discontentment I was living in. I had more or less wished away three months. It scared me that I could so easily allow that much time to slip by because mentally I was choosing to be in a different spot.
There are plenty of cheesy quotes I could whip out to fit this situation. Bloom where you’re planted. Wherever you are, be all there. But Scripture’s got something to say about it too.
Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” God is making a new way right now. He is working right now. Do you not see it?
Nope, no I do not. Besides, what if I don’t want a new way? What if I liked the good ol’ way and would like to have it back, please and thank you?
These verses promise that God will not only make a way through the wilderness and deserts but will also provide water along the way. While I was missing my friends from school, I was surrounded by my family, whom I love dearly. While I was missing the activities that I’m normally involved in, I got the opportunity to connect and volunteer with new ministries. My family, new ministries — these were rivers of fresh water, satisfying me when all around was dry desert.
Opening my eyes to the present felt like someone flung open the curtains while I was asleep in a dark room. I wasn’t all that thrilled to be woken from my dream state, but once my eyes adjusted, I saw what was around me. And now that I see it, it’s not so bad. Actually, it’s pretty beautiful.
In what way do you need to take your eyes off the past or future and settle into the present?
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