Five Steps to Peace: Step 4 – Live Fully in the Present

c34df16eec044c5399f9d7e1aa3e7d95We all know that feeling: Sunday afternoon, the weekend is dwindling away, and only a few hours stand between you and work. The Friday-night relaxation that turned into Saturday-afternoon laziness has already faded into Sunday-evening ennui,  soon to become Monday-morning anxiety as you leave the happiness of weekend leisure to re-enter the unpleasantness of the work-week.

We all get that feeling every time something good is about to come to an end, be it the weekend, vacation, or the holiday season. It may be mollified when more enjoyable things are soon to come, but there will always be those moments when you realize that the good times won’t roll forever.

“Do not Worry about Tomorrow”

Even though we will always have to wake up to unpleasant realities (at least while on earth), the good news is that it doesn’t have to be so miserable when we do. The key is to stop worrying about the future and learn to live the present to the full.

463341065_52ab94963bWorry, depression, and anxiety do not come from God. Rather, they come from a disordered way of seeing things, that of thinking that we are the only ones in control.  If we were the only ones in control, then yes, we would have a good reason to be worried. But thankfully, that is not the case – God is the One who is really in charge.

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?…Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. – Matthew 6:26-27,34

“Do not worry about tomorrow.” These are words straight from the mouth of our Lord: do we truly believe them? How much time and energy do we waste either worrying about the future or re-hashing the past?  God has so many blessings that He wants to give us, but to receive them, we have to be where He is: in the present.

Waking up to Beauty

After an unusually cold and wet winter, it is finally spring in Rome. The sun is out, birds are chirping, lizards are sunbathing, and new life is all around. Not long ago, I was walking along the edge of the woods on our seminary grounds, engrossed in my own thoughts and problems, when I heard some commotion and high-pitched bleating coming from somewhere in the trees. Being someone who loves animals and nature, I thought about indulging my curiosity and investigating, but I decided against it telling myself that I had too much to do.

Our new seminary mascots!
Our new seminary mascots!

Later that day, a confrere who had walked by that same spot shortly afterwards told me that I had missed seeing a she-goat from the local flock who had just given birth to a kid. My friend had done what I was too distracted to do: he took the time to marvel at the beauty of God’s creatures and the miracle of new life.

This is what it means to live the present fully: instead of living in our heads with our thoughts and problems, we should live in the here and now, relishing the beauty that it has to offer. When we live in our heads, we isolate ourselves from the beauty that is all around us; but when we take the time to “smell the roses” and bask in the sunshine, we open ourselves to the shower of blessings that God is always pouring upon us.

Opening Ourselves to Infinite Blessings

There is no limit the blessings that God wants to give us, but we often hinder His generosity by being too distracted to receive it. His unlimited supply of gifts could be compared to having a generous and wealthy uncle who insists that you ask him for help whenever you need it. In fact, he does more than insist: he sets up an account for you and tells you continuously that it gives him great joy to share with you – all you have to do is make the withdrawal. How many of us would allow ourselves to be too distracted by our problems to avail ourselves of that generosity?

meadowIn the same way, but so much more, God wants to give to us and does give to us; all we have to do is open our eyes of faith and accept what he has to offer. God will take care of our future problems if we simply let go and focus on the ones at hand. Each day is bursting with blessings, but we have to live in the present to receive them.

Acts of trust in God’s blessings are essential to living in the present because there are always an infinity of “what-ifs” waiting to swarm our imaginations if we allow them. Most of these “what-ifs” are nothing more than energy-sapping variables that are simply beyond our control. To live in peace, we must learn to leave those variables in God’s hands and focus on the few that are within our limited spheres of influence, all of which can only be handled one at a time in the present.

prayer-at-work-300x208The next time you catch yourself getting wound up about everything that may go wrong, turn that moment of anxiety into an opportunity to open yourself to God’s blessings. Take a deep breath, make an act of trust in God (which can be as simple as saying, “Jesus, I trust in you”) and then, peacefully and calmly, return to the task at hand. You will be amazed at how much more smoothly your future will go if you leave it in God’s hands and live fully in the present.

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