"Do not say, Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise or because of wisdom that you ask this."
Ecclesiastes 7:10 (Amplified Bible)
"How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil."
James 4:14-17 (New Living Translation)
A troubling habit in my life began when I was a ten-year-old girl in the throes of culture shock in the Congo. At my age, I was old enough to remember twenty-four hour electricity, running water, and sleep-overs with my beloved Grandpa and Grandma McKown. Our family's final destination was the bush where the only running water that existed was my running feet propelling the water bucket up the hill to our house. The light switch that had always provided electricity when I flipped it on in my old room in the United States now did nothing without the roar of the generator in my ears. One of my favorite TV shows when we left in 1978 was Little House on the Prairie. Our family was suddenly catapulted into a time one hundred years before by American lifestyle standards.
To combat the loneliness I was experiencing, I lived on the memories of my past. Much of my awake hours would be spent in trying to find an escape from the sadness of missing all that had been familiar to me. Nothing in my world was the same other than my parents and siblings. I became a voracious reader, not necessarily for the joy of reading, but to provide me a different world to live in other than the one that was my new reality.
When I wasn't living on memories from the past, I lived in the future. My sister Nicol and I would plan elaborate details for all the sleep-overs we were going to have with the girlfriends we left behind, even down to what we would eat and drink. All I could think about was the year we would return to the United States. I planned who I wanted to be at the airport, my first taste of a Big Mac, fries, and the Coke that went with it. My mouth would water as I dreamed of my grandpa firing up his griddle in the mornings to make his light-as-a feather pancakes and crispy bacon.
I bounced between my past and my future and rarely lived in my present. I became extremely adept at living anywhere but in the here and now. The majority of my life was spent living in a fantasy world. The trouble was that this pattern of either living too much in the past or too much into the future continued into my teens, my twenties, and my thirties, robbing me of a good portion of the blessings God had available for me in the moments of my present.
Why did Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, warn his readers not to long for the past? And why did James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, warn his readers not to live in the future? I don't know all the answers, but I can look at my own life as an example of the folly of not living for today. All those sleep-overs that my sister and I so elaborately planned never came to be. When we returned to the U.S., we lived four hours away from all the friends that we had lived near when we moved to Congo. We both had such high expectations for those get-togethers. It was a great shock to be confronted with the fact that none of those friends were interested in continuing a relationship with us. While our lives had frozen the moment we left them, theirs had gone on without us. Haven't we all been bitterly disappointed with going "home" only to find that "home" is no longer the comfort it once was?
How many hours have I wasted in worry or fear over the future? Again, I have been devastated when I have built something up in my mind and have found its reality to fall far short of my expectations. I am not guaranteed tomorrow. Just this moment. When my life is spent trying to avoid my present, I miss out on Who has ordained today for me. The mundaneness of the day that I am living right now has its own God-given purpose! Most of life is lived out in the mundane. We have mountain-top experiences every now and then. I must learn to live fully in my today and not miss my Jesus because I long for yesterday's joys or tomorrow's hopes.
Please do not misunderstand me. I love remembering faces and places in my past. I love to anticipate the future. But I must strike a healthy balance between the two. Yesterday cannot overshadow today. And tomorrow cannot be all I live for. Jesus must be sovereign over my today so that I can find Him in my tomorrow. I miss out on so much if I am not content to see what He has for me right now, at this very moment! He is the I AM God. Not the I WAS or I WILL BE God. So much joy is mine when I look for Him right now in this moment.
Jesus, help me to live each moment expecting You to show up. Your presence is just as powerful in the mundane as in the mountain-top experience. You have amazed me in both situations. Help me not miss the reason You ordained this day for me because I am looking too far back or too far ahead.