We’re all conscious of time. It’s finitude and speed. Sometimes languishing and always passing, faster and faster as we age. There’s something about having less real estate left to cover which increases our velocity.
We all have thoughts about time and how we live our lives. And we’re all focused somewhere: past, present, future.
When are you living?
But the question I ask isn’t just about focus, it’s about intention. Choice.
It isn’t about where do you go. It’s about where you choose to be and when you celebrate. Past achievements and family traditions? The day-to-day surviving and pleasures of the now? The potential of youth and the hope for tomorrow?
When are you living for?
What age do you celebrate?
Images of the person living for the past are everywhere in our culture. From the 40-something who keeps trying to relive the glory days of high school to the religious community always bringing up the ’50s and ’60s. Back when the babies boomed. The political nostalgia of Ross Perot and Donald Trump is the past’s re-embodiment. Their rallying cries of taking America back and making it great again call us to turn past into present.
There is sensibility to living for the past. That we learn from it. And gain strength from it. We celebrate those saints who inspired and continue to inspire. Or nurturing our family tree to grow and grow from the roots our ancestors planted long ago.
If the nostalgic past is the easiest example, then the person living for the present is exemplified by the ubiquitous appeals to live for today. Carpe diem! Love the one you’re with. Few things are so clearly zen and Christian at the same time as living in the moment and for the people of the moment.
While it would seem that these prophetic calls to live for the present are made because we don’t, many of us are only ever in the present. Some of us live paycheck-to-paycheck, struggle with debt, or are bound by an elaborate system of soup kitchens and day shelters. So we live in a persistent, never-ending now of clock-watching and rule-juggling. Living without the security to ever leave the present to look to another moment.
If our culture revels in the past and calls us to live in the present, then it loves to dream about the future. Whether it actually wants us to see it or not.
We speak of our youth being our future and the need to support and protect them for that time. And we worry about when our money will run out. And when we won’t be able to do those things we love to do.
The future shifts under us like sand, from the sturdy dirt of hope to the slippery mud of fear.
Those who live for the future run the gamut between hope and fear. Our dreamers and our skeptics. All of whom are criticized by the so-called “realists” who think the future always looks like the present.
Beyond these three.
Is there a difference between when you live and when you live for? Are you deeply nostalgic and thus committed to making the present better? Maybe you are so used to living in the present, you’ve committed to build a future for your family and community which is better than you know.
And some of us feel committed to all three. We shift between them. Maybe they blend together.
One of my favorite responses when people say “our children are our future” is to remind them that they’re also our present. Particularly when we say those words with children in the room. Like they aren’t even present.
For All the Saints
Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints’ Day, one of the principal feasts of the church. A day which honors all the saints of the church. But not as some grisly annual marker of the dead, like we remember a loved one who has died. Their birthday or anniversary haunting the many years which follow.
All Saints’ serves as a regular point of connection to our past, present, and future. It’s a day which interlocks the history that has come, is now, and is coming.
And it reminds us these firm boundaries restrict time like a net confines water.
So any focus on one without the rest is foolish. As living in any one time is ultimately unhealthy.
The Font and the Table
Our sacraments call us to gather together around a font and a table, to wash and to eat. To share in the ongoing and ever-moving Spirit who works in and beyond time.
And while we are baptised once and forever, we gather to take part in the baptism of others. And we vow to uplift, teach, and protect every newly baptized member brought into the faith.
Likewise, we gather with one another around the table to eat and drink. In this moment, we not only remember Christ, but are with Christ, and then take that Spirit out into the world.
The font and the table are the places where past, present, and future blend, like the dancing trinity; unified and incarnate in us.
Every time and all time. One.
What do you see?
Our last choice, in this moment, to determine when we live for is to name our own finitude. It’s our moment in the cosmic infinite. The speck of life in the universe and the imperceptible dot in the continuum.
But in all these dots and moments and specks, we see. We see something. Through lenses of faith, of Christ.
We see, what? Opportunity? Hope? Faith?
Or failure? Destruction? Fear?
Do we see what’s possible or load the audio to replay on repeat: it’s not going to work.
…every moment, what colors your vision?
…your life, can you see Christ?
…the world, can you find the Spirit?
All these are choices. None is inevitable.
A faith crafted by time, intention, and the humility of the divine.
Right now, look up. What do you see?
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This is from a series on Choices. We have plenty more choices to make!