The present moment is a dangerous place.
Most of my life is spent worrying about the future. From thinking about what job I might have in 5-10 years to feeling anxious about an exam the next morning, I am continually finding ways to evade the present moment.
Anxiety about the future tends to masquerade itself as a “healthy dose of reality.” Somehow, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking it necessary to spend our time planning our own future. We think, “Because I’ve only got one shot at this life, I better plan it right!” The fear of any bad possible outcome overwhelms us, so we hunker down inside our minds and think, think, think.
“It’s not just you, it’s me.”
I do this all the time. My undergraduate degree is in Biblical and Theological Studies, so my worry is usually that I’ll come out of college not being able to do anything with my degree (nobody has ever had that worry before). And so I try to plan the next thing, like where I might possibly get my Master’s degree or where I might try to find a job.
Whether its where you’ll go to school, who’ll you’ll marry, or what you’ll eat for lunch later today, thinking about the future is not bad in and of itself. Like most things, moderation is key. But the problem is that we live in an anxiety-driven society. From the birth of the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s to the invention of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, we have gotten extremely wrapped up in industrial thinking and self-promotion. Though it didn’t begin there, we have developed inner systems of thought that say, “Gotta plan, gotta build, gotta mass produce, gotta get our name and image out there.” The endless cycle of go, go, go and me, me, me eventually drives us into the daily anxiety that I am talking about.
Maybe it’s ego, maybe it’s desire for wealth and fame (I guess the same thing as ego), but regardless, its not a good way to be human. We are not machines. We are living human beings, made up of soul and body and spirit. We have a beating heart and a thinking mind, not buttons and levers to be pressed and pulled. We are each one of a kind, made by the hands of a creative and loving God.
We were created for community, and I’m not talking about that false sense of community that social media offers us. Yes, it’s a good way to communicate. I’m down with that (Social media isn’t evil. But anything and everything has its way of becoming an obsession and making us less human.
The kind of community I’m talking about is laughter and love and anger and forgiveness and bread and wine (or a cup of grace juice), shared between diverse human beings who are trying to live together in such a way that shows people they truly love each other and that they have come to know and love the One who brought them together in the first place.
Community is healthy. Community is good. Community is presence.
Now back to my first thought…
The present moment is a dangerous place to be because it causes us to be vulnerable to the life that’s going on around us. Instead of hiding behind our plans for the future or our created online self, we’ve got to live and learn how to be present in our daily lives and trust God’s plans for the future. Like C.S. Lewis says of Aslan (a symbol of Christ) in his Chronicles of Narnia, “Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good!” God is in the process of redeeming and uniting all things in heaven and on Earth (Eph. 1:10), and it might get messy at times. But we know where the whole thing is headed and that is why Jesus is able to simply say, “Do not be anxious about your life (Matt. 6:25).” To be clear, we have a hope! There’s already a plan laid out! If you’re wondering what that looks like, check out Revelation 21. So we have a beautiful hope and a sure plan, but that plan doesn’t come to bear upon us anywhere else but the present.
The present moment is a dangerous place. But it’s also where the whole thing is at.
After all, Jesus is Immanuel. God with us.