Past, Present, Future

Original post: August 27, 2007; reposted unchanged.

On Saturday, I was on two planes and in three airports. I always journal when I’m on planes and in airports; maybe it’s all of the time I have while waiting, or the association that I have with airports as symbols of transition and change that stirs something in me. Maybe I just think a lot and these are some of the few times I have to write my thoughts down.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about time. I’ve now been in the States for over a year. It’s been a tough year—probably the toughest yet; but it’s been a good year—one of the best. I don’t feel like I’m living what Brennan Manning describes as “a life of surrender without reservation” (The Signature of Jesus, 91). It’s where I’d love to be.

Things are busy, life is busy, there’s always a lot to do, Brennan acknowledges. But his subsequent comment jarred me from my stupor of busyness: “What of prayer, silence, solitude, and simple presence of the indwelling God?” (104). Take time, get out of the busyness for a while, center down, practice the presence. It is the difference between a tired, strenuous, stretched-thin, mediocre existence, and the fullness of life.

***

You’ve probably heard that saying, “The past is gone, the future is not yet here; all we have is the present” or some variant of it. It’s so important to dwell in the present, to make the most of the opportunities we have in the here and now, not missing out on them because we’re looking back at what once was, or looking forward to what might be.

Of course, we learn from the past, we remember the past; and we look forward to what is to come, we work towards hopes and dreams. But the only thing we can do anything about is the present.

And rest assured, time and experience work themselves out in more than just a straight line. For instance, I’m continually astounded when songs that I’ve written years ago for someone else come to speak exactly into my situation or into someone else’s situation; songs like “I Miss You”, “Undone”, “Somewhere I Don’t Need to Care”, “What Happens Now?” and “Her”.

Human experience differs as cultures, times and situations change. But on another level, it’s basically the same. Hence the appeal of the Bible: here, we find stories of tragedy, of dysfunctional families, of hard lives; songs of love; words of advice that hold true today; examples of people who lived ordinary lives, hard lives, faithful lives. And it speaks to us. Because we’re human too.

***

“Only the one who has experienced it can know what the love of Jesus Christ is. Once you have experienced it, nothing else in the world will seem more beautiful or desirable.” (Manning, Signature, 42)

Justin

Hong Kong | London | California | Washington, DC

Christian | Theologian | Musician | Activist | Sojourner

Leave a Reply