On my last morning in Naples, Florida earlier this spring, I woke up at 6:15 daydreaming about a walk on the beach. Visions of lush vegetation, the aqua green expanse of the Gulf of Mexico, shelly sand between my toes, and pelicans dive-bombing for fish passed in front of my mind’s eye. Fifteen minutes later, dressed and on the beach, my tropical daydream was a reality. A minute into the walk, however, I noticed I was no longer paying any attention to the vegetation, the sand, the water, or the birds. Instead, I visualized scenes from the movie I had seen the day before and the luscious asparagus pizza my friend and I had shared. The suitcase I needed to pack before I headed for the airport flashed before my eyes. What I saw in my mind’s eyes was the past and the future. I was no longer enjoying “the glory of God” right before my eyes.
Staying in the now is an ongoing spiritual challenge for me. When I was the mother of young sons, I had the normal complaints:“When will Adam sleep through the night?” “I can’t wait until he’s out of diapers!” In response to these complaints, a grandmotherly woman said, “You’re wishing your child’s life away.” Whoa! I knew she was right. Not only was I wishing my child’s life away, I was wishing my own life away as well. At every stage of parenthood and self-hood there are multiple reasons to complain. To escape the the present, I fantasize about a future with none of the current problems or issues and reminisce about an imaginary carefree time in the past. In the fantasizing and reminiscing, my life right now passes me by.
Reining my mind away from “yesterday and tomorrow” thinking is not easy. Part of the challenge is to allow the frustrations and the joys of the day to walk hand and hand, to co-exist in the same moment. Unless I let it, my joy cannot be trumped by the issues of the day. “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” says the Psalmist. (Psalm 118:24 NIV) Sometimes the Psalmist speaks in even shorter increments: “This is the moment the Lord has made. See the vegetation. Smell the sea. Wiggle your toes in the sand. Rejoice in the dirty diaper and be glad.”