There really is no present because time is moving too fast; the present is really either the past or the future, but as humans, we are not able to stop time and live in the present; only God can stop time or slow down or speed up the minutes of time we have; in truth, in the normal passage of time, we only have either the past or the future
So how do we handle the present? Which is gone from us so fast that we can’t even say it exists? When people say, “Live in the moment; be fully present, what do they mean? How do you live in the moment, in the present, when it is gone the second you think of it?
And how do you live in the present when time is dragging?
It seems like the present can either fly by or drag so slowly you go crazy waiting for the minutes to pass: waiting for someone to get off the phone; waiting for the floor you just mopped to dry; waiting for your computer to turn on or go to a screen that you want; waiting for a customer service representative!
Time can also fly by: visits with your grown up children, and they leave before you’re even ready; a special dinner you’ve been waiting for forever and it finally comes, and is gone before you know it; vacation time that simply flies by and it’s time to go back to work!
Time does funny things, either dragging or speeding up, and it becomes very hard to know how to live in the tedium of dragging moments or the lightning effect of joyous ones that end too soon.
I think what helps us in living in the moment is reconciling the past and the future. And perhaps that reconciliation of both past and future, that joining together of what is behind us and what is in front, is the way we accept and live in the present moment. We all struggle with learning to have joy in our present life; I think we have to have the bigger perspective of rising above our daily lives and looking at our journey through life in a broader, more inclusive way.
I used to be very sad after my husband, Ron, and I were married. For some reason, I kept seeing our younger days passing and becoming the two of us grown old, with life getting more and more difficult as we aged. It was a bittersweet thing for us to do anything at all together and try to enjoy it, because I knew it would pass so quickly. Soon the years would have flown by and we would have less and less days together. It would happen in an instant! And it did! Here we are, 24 years later! Where did all the todays and present moments go? They are now the past, and they were the past the moment they happened. We still have the future, always running just a step ahead of us, with us reaching for it, yet never attaining it, and always looking with regret at its passing.
Time and today are very strange concepts to adjust to, though we have a lifetime of practice. So how do we experience the joy of the moment and stop worrying, as Jesus says, about tomorrow, which will take care of itself (Matt. 6:34)?
The book of Ephesians gives us a rich and meaningful look at our time here on earth and our time to come, in heaven with Christ. This book, above all others, gives me a sense of perspective and reconciliation about the past, present, and future, and I think God has given us dogs to help us sort out the tangle of time in which we live and move.
Dogs accept how time moves, they are experts at it. They sleep, they eat, they accompany us throughout the day, seemingly devoid of any thought about their past or their future. They accept the food we give them, never worrying we might not have food for them tomorrow. They drink their water with gusto, never worrying about drought or the drying up of the well. They accept the changes in their bodies without complaint and when they hurt they simply play less and rest more. Maybe they have a sadness in their spirit about slowing down and growing older, but to their dearly loved masters, they continue to wag their tail, show their happiness at our attention to them, and will continue living life as long as possible. We should follow their example. The main priority in their lives is their relationship with us. We are the light in their eyes, the bounce in their step, and the harmony in their routine.
If you ever wonder about this, get mad at your dog and see how their whole world crumbles, the abject sadness that takes over their face, the wilted body, the hanging head and the dragging steps. Then reconcile with them, and give them the praise they so richly deserve, and watch the opposite transformation. Everything from the past is instantly erased! All is right with their world again, and it only took the second of time necessary for you to give them a pat and look at them with favor. In fact, dogs so much live in the present that they can enjoy themselves even when life is uncertain. Though they might be at a shelter or in a foster home, kept in a kennel or crate, they still very much enjoy a walk or a playtime with other dogs.
The Maker of Time: So I think the key to reconciliation with how the present becomes the past and the future is our relationship with the maker of time. We MUST have someone timeless to make sense of the time we have here on earth. Dogs have to learn to adjust to different masters and handlers, sometimes many times in their life, but we, as humans, can have the benefit of beginning and living out a relationship with Jesus Christ that will never end, no matter what twists and turns our life is taking. Learning to live out that relationship is the key to finding stability in a world full of present troubles and fears about the future. That perpetual relationship with Jesus Christ gives us a different perspective on the world than others have. We learn to trust Christ and to look at life from his perspective rather than our own.
Ephesians gives us that look at ourselves, as well as the Maker of time, and how we, and He, intersect and interact. This book is a real oddity in the scope of New Testament books because of the way it is laid out. It’s kind of like the science fiction book of its time because it deals so thoroughly with other-worldly things about our faith. It speaks of angels and principalities, and powers that are outside of our realm of understanding. It talks about the future first, and God’s huge purposes already fulfilled in us, then comes back to present reality and daily life by talking about how we are to interact with each other on the earth. The writer paints a grand picture of the future to which we are headed, then gradually brings us down the mountain to our everyday lives, showing us how living out our relationships day by day by day culminates in that grand future existence where we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places forever and ever. The book closes with a picture of a soldier, armed with the knowledge and faith that one finds in Jesus Christ, standing firm against all these invisible powers that are attempting to take away the soldier’s confidence in the perfect world with Christ that is to come.
Ephesians 1: 3: God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly places! It’s like we are already there with God, seated in heaven and living our future life already! Amazing! [Have you ever imagined getting a puppy and how that dog will go everywhere and be with you in everything you do?]
1:4: God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world and thought of us as holy and blameless [we plan for a puppy or dog, and already know that we will accept that dog in spite of whatever accidents or problems it will bring; we love the dog already and it hasn’t even been born or shown to us!]
2:7: He did this so that in the ages to come he could show his great kindness to us in front of all the angels and principalities in the universe who would be watching what God does with us. [Have you ever had someone tell you that they hoped they could come back as a dog that belonged to you? They see your kindness to your dog, and it gives them a picture of what you are like to a creature you love!]
2:10: We are God’s workmanship; created for good works that we would do through Jesus’s power, with everything laid out before us ahead of time so that there would be no mistakes in what we would accomplish in this world. [Have you ever imagined the life and work you would give your dog, with dreams of agility or search and rescue work, or being a therapy dog? You lay out a plan in your mind and give your dog the right training and love so that your dog can perform the good works you have in mind for him/her.]
2:12 We were separated from Christ at one time, having no hope and not knowing God at all in the world. [At one time, your dog didn’t know you, either as a puppy or as an adult; rescued dogs, before they are rescued, are without a good master, with no hope in the world. Have you ever seen a chained dog who sits day after day, in all kinds of weather, with hanging head and sad eyes, showing that they have no thought of anything changing?]
2:14: He himself has become our peace, who has made us both one.
2:16: he has reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross.
[We rescue a dog or buy a puppy, and suddenly the dog’s world becomes one of peace and happiness; we have brought the dog, who was once far away from our affection and provision, near to us by giving a price or taking the puppy or dog away from the outside world and bringing it inside with us. He is now warm by our fire and fed from our hand—we have reconciled the dog’s past with our future. The past was necessary to bring the dog to us, and the future envelopes and dissolves the past as the dog leaves behind all the pain and suffering of the previous life.]
Watch this video of a dog named Zuzi living in the moment after she is rescued:
You see, that dog in the video is us! We were at one time living on the streets spiritually, without hope and without a home in this world. We were brought near, just as Zuzi was, by the kindness of someone who came looking for us; someone who recognized that we needed security and love and acceptance. The person in the video found a way to break down the enmity between Zuzi and the world, with kindness and nourishment, and Christ does the same for us. We have been given a strange message to proclaim to others: a message of hope in a hopeless world, a message of home in a world that is transient, and a message of living when death is all around us. The message of Christ is definitely counter cultural and looked at by some as out of touch with reality and not relevant to our present situation. But just as Zuzi could not have imagined anyone finding her and being kind to her; could not have imagined a home of love and security and nourishment, without fear, so we too must learn through faith, to accept the kindness of God in Christ. God wants to reach out to us in love and nurturing, and always has. In Isaiah, we find these verses:
6 The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.
7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.
9 And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Don’t you want every person you love to come to that lavish banquet the Lord is preparing? Can you imagine if they didn’t know about it and wanted to be there?
Think about our relationships with loved ones: if we were in a fire or flood or knew there would be one, we would go all out to rescue every person we came across! We would start with our families, but along the way to rescuing them, we would grab whatever stranger was near us and want to see them rescued also.
We live in that kind of world, in a world that is flooded, burning, and full of gale-force winds, yet they are invisible dangers, not attributed to something seen. We have flooded the world with words, images, sounds, and all kinds of technology. We are burning with worries and fears and anxieties; there are more people with emotional challenges and panic attacks than ever before. And there are the gale-force winds of change coming at us from all directions; people are transient, losing their jobs and their houses and way of life in ways never seen before. The world’s people are in need of rescue, and the only thing that will save them and give them peace is a relationship with Jesus Christ, the maker and redeemer of time.
To our pets, we are the timeless ones; we usually outlive our dogs and see them into their passing over the Rainbow Bridge. But for humans, we need a timeless person who envelopes the past, present, and future: Jesus Christ. All of our moments can be kept safe in his presence and power, and his resurrected life also resurrects the present moments that are eaten up by our past. Through our relationship with Christ, we find a way to experience the salvation offered today and a way to put away our mistakes and failures of yesterday. In the way of those mistakes and failures, the fact that the present is eaten up by the past is a good thing. No wrong moment can last forever. Yet we take those wrong moments into the present and future with us, and I think it’s the regret and sadness about the past that causes our steps to sink as we try to walk the road that leads to the future. We are weighed down by what we have done wrong, in the same way our dogs are weighed down by our displeasure when we come home to chewed items or a mess on the rug.
But with God, our lives are always in the present context. Jesus made a way for us to leave every failure and mistake in the past, on the road behind us, not in front of us, and he also made a way for us to look forward to the future with hope and joy rather than dread in how life steals our youth and comfort. Because Jesus Christ alone is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8), we can look forward to a future where we will actually experience the present on an eternal basis. Time will stand still forever, and we will relish the presence of Christ and all of our loved ones because there will no longer be any past, any regrets, any unfulfilled longings or relationships. Our future won’t produce less life and less comfort and less health, but will become melded with the glorious present in which we live with Christ, time standing still yet always going forward as we no longer have to worry about running out of time or opportunities.
We will one day live with the same joy our dogs have on one of our best days with them: full bellies, full spirits, full hearts, full minds, and absolutely no dread or thought of tomorrow because at last God’s tomorrow has become our Today. Enveloped and held by Christ, the ticking clock will stop, with the hands pointed eternally at the best of times, the best of days, the best of past, present and tomorrow because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.