Mired in the Past, Longing for the Future

I have a calendar countdown on my department office wall that tells me exactly how many days I have left until the school year is over and summer begins.  I find myself also looking forward to upcoming vacations, time off I have coming, and other planned future events.  Similarly, I also find myself often times in the past, thinking about how great things used to be.  This longing for the past and desiring for the future tend to overwhelm me so much so that I tend to lose sense of any appreciation for the present.  And the truth is this:  my present is really quite great.  I am blessed enough to have a lot going for me, but I spend so much time looking forward or backward that I forget to look at the now.  I find that my young son isn’t mired in his memories or stuck in his hopes for the future quite the same that most adults are.  In fact, if you ask children what their favorite book, movie, or day is, it’s usually the one they are currently experiencing.  We long for a glimpse in the future to see how our lives turn out and what the ramifications are of our decisions, but children are more interested in what is directly in front of them.  Children have a wonderful appreciation for the present that we adults, as we age, tend to lose sight of and forget.  I have watched my son run around the yard by himself, making up his own stories, completely lost in his own world, appreciating the moment as he is while in it.  Yet, as we grow, we lose sense of time and get lost anywhere but in the present.  In the cartoon short “World of Tomorrow,” 5-year-old Emily is visited by an offspring from 200 hundred years in the future.  The future, grownup version tries to warn and debate about the issues of life, love, the future, our past, and the decisions we make.  Unable to comprehend what the future relative is talking about, 5-year-old Emily talks about how wonderful a day it is and how great her toys are, inviting the future relative to join her.  The future version tries showing her horrifying images of what will become of people and the world, but the young girl only focuses on the beautiful colors and dancing lights around her in these images. The piece, although immensely absurd at times, deals with the idea that when young, we have a tremendous love of and excitement for life, but as we age, we live more in our own memories of the past and worries about our futures.  Summing up the jaded philosophy of adults, the future relative states: “That is the thing about the present. You only appreciate it when it is the past.”  When we realize that we should appreciate what it is we have, it is usually then too late, as it is already gone.  Christ’s words to us in Matthew 18.3 mention being childlike: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Although this verse has been used a multitude of other ways, it is worth mentioning here in this approach to life.  Children’s wonderful appreciation for the present is a perfect example of how we should be following their example and choose to live in and appreciate the moment as it is in front of us.  Our present has been blessed with a multitude of wonderful gifts from God, be we too often look beyond them and focus on what was or what we hope will be.  Instead, look to the behavior and approaches of children for example, and find the good in the present moment, enjoying the blessings you have now before they become a thing of the past.  Amen.

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