“To live in the past and future is easy, to live in the present is like threading a needle.” Walker Percy
It’s that time of the year again, when we get bombarded with questions about New Year resolutions, goals and plans. I don’t know about you but whenever anyone asks me about my resolutions or goals or plans for the year or the next five years, I get uncomfortable. I usually mumble and mutter something under my breath about not making plans and hope they won’t keep pressing me with questions.
For a person who loves to organise and plan out the details of a multitude of things, I am quite reluctant to extend that fervour to planning the future. It could be out of fear or lack of faith, where I’ve planned stuff and it hasn’t worked out and I’m hesitant to go down that road again. It could also be a general lack of ambition to succeed and achieve.
So instead of a word to focus on for the year, I have a phrase. It's one that I have held very dear to my heart for sometime now, “One day at a time". And don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating unplanned or directionless living, I do make some plans (like my next holiday destination - a little superficial, I know!) and I value intentionality and direction.
But I also am aware that sometimes we live too much in the future or in the past, while the present rushes by us. Life, in general, is pretty overwhelming to think about, yet our life is but a collection of our days. As Annie Dillard puts it, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
Living in the present and taking each day as it comes, is paradoxically both easy and difficult. It can be like “threading a needle” when we are eager to get where we want to be in the future or when we are longing for the past. The present almost becomes a hurdle to be crossed or a painful reminder of a glorious past. But both the past and the future hang in the balance of the everyday, which is closest to the eternal.
C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, journals the fictional advice from a senior demon to a junior demon on how to tempt humans successfully. And so writes the senior demon, “Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this is view, we sometimes tempt a human to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the future…In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity… We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.”
But living in the present can also be relatively easy, because all we have to deal with is the day, today. Not only that, we also have the provision and providence of our Creator as we look to Him for our daily bread. I love the picture of God’s provision of manna in the desert for His people; each day's provision was enough for the day. So we can look to Him to not only meet the physical but also all our emotional and spiritual needs for the day.
So taking it “one day at a time" I want to think of each day this year as a gift from God. Each day will have its moments of joy, beauty, opportunities and reasons for thankfulness. Each day will also, no doubt, have its share of troubles and sorrows but “sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34), without the troubles of yesterday and tomorrow dragged in. And through it all to rest on the promises from the One who stays the same yesterday, today and forever.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens.” Psalm 68:19
Photo Credit: Dafne Cholet via Flickr cc
Thank you Shobana, for sharing your thoughts on approaching another year. I learnt today from reading your article how the present is connected to eternity. I did not know this before. Quoting C.S Lewis nailed that point. I want to live 'one day at a time' looking to God for the daily needs. Thank you for the generosity in sharing this phrase and what it really means. Love your writing 🙂
Thanks Winnie 🙂 yup Lewis does nail it!!
Wow Shobi!!!Its so like you.....i enjoyed reading it and its so encouraging.
Thanks Sengchi 🙂
Loved this, Shobi! Such a good word -- for all of us!