Being Present

I glanced at the screen on my cell phone this morning and noted the date: Friday, December 17, 2021. And normally I would have laid the phone down and gone on about my business, giving the information very little thought. But, for some reason, I was suddenly struck by the thought that this was going to be the only day I would ever see that particular date. It is a reality today, but only for today, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I know — some of you are thinking — what on earth is she talking about? Does this woman have nothing else to do with her time?  🙂

Actually, I had a whole list of things I needed to do with my time today, but I just couldn’t get away from that thought for quite a while. I realized pretty quickly that the Lord was taking advantage of that date on the phone to get me to focus on the fact that I needed to be cognizant of today. I didn’t need to be thinking about yesterday and all the stuff I didn’t get done, or that I did wrong, or even what I did right. I lived yesterday completely, and it’s gone. And He didn’t want me focusing on all the plans coming up for the next week, trying to figure out how I could make them all work out.  He especially didn’t want me focusing on all the possible future things that had the power to cause me worry or fear. 

He wanted me focusing on Him and what was on His heart for me to do and be today. He has plans for all of us that are good. But He so seldom gets our full attention long enough to be able to make us understand what those plans are and to get us to carry them out. I’m convinced from my many decades of walking with God that there isn’t a day that goes by that He doesn’t have some good things in mind for us to be a part of.

So as I contemplated the truth about this day being a unique gift that will come to me only once in my entire lifetime, I realized that I too wanted to be focused on what I could do and be that was good today. And I wanted to focus on some good things that could come my way as well — things that wouldn’t have an opportunity to come to me tomorrow or next week — but just today. I kept hearing this admonition in my heart: “Be present in this day. Enjoy it. Be grateful for it. Live it to the fullest.”

As those thoughts lodged in my heart, I was reminded of a little short story I wrote several years ago — a sort of “take-off” from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was participating in a writing challenge in which we were supposed to write about some of the characters as if they were living today. One of those stories made the very point that the Lord was making to me today about being present in the here and now. So I thought I’d share it here in this post. It fits into the season, since I’ve borrowed the Spirit of Christmas Present. Some of you might remember the story, and several of you will be reading it for the first time. But I hope it spurs each of you on to focus on being truly present in your day today — and then to do so again tomorrow — and the next day — and — well, you know.

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT: LIVING IN THE HERE AND NOW

Reggie sat slumped in his chair, his right leg carelessly propped over the chair arm, gloom written all over him. He’d been this way for weeks, and hitting the bottle wasn’t helping him any. It just gave him a horrible headache the next morning. So tonight, he’d left off the booze, but he sat in a stupor anyway.

“Well, what a pretty picture you make tonight, Reginald, old boy!” The voice jolted him upright; he looked around.

“Who’s there?”

The voice took shape: on the sofa to his right, a well-tailored man gradually came into focus, lounging with his feet propped on the coffee table. “I’m generally called Spirit of Christmas Present. That’s what your Uncle Ebeneezer called me.”

“Oh, so you’re the one who supposedly helped him straighten out his life, huh?”

The figure shrugged. “Among others.”

“Well, you can go back where you came from,” Reggie said, at the same time making a shooing motion with his hand. “I don’t need anything you have to say!”

“You need a hammer to your head!,” his visitor replied. “It’s just a shame I’m not allowed to give it to you.”

“Hey, where do you get off talking like that to me? Threatening to hit me in the head with a hammer! For what?”

“For constantly trying to live in a time dimension that it’s impossible for you to inhabit. You’re always trying to live either in the past – sucking on your memories the way a baby does his thumb – or in the future – always focusing on next week or next year. It’s stupid. Your memories make you miserable, and your future makes you anxious and edgy because it holds problems you don’t have answers for yet.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re here because you think you’re going to fix me?”

“No … I’m going to tell you how you can fix yourself.”

“Well, just maybe I don’t want to be fixed. What do you think about that?”

“Your uncle didn’t think he wanted to be fixed either – until he saw where his life was leading him. Do we have to give you the same kind of detailed, guided tour of your life that we did for him?”

“Who’s we?”

“You know – the Spirits of Christmas Past and Future, and yours truly.”

Reggie shivered in his chair. He would never consider admitting to this strange visitor that he believed what had happened to his old uncle, but he did have to admit to himself that he’d seen the changes in Ebeneezer first hand. And when his uncle had described his experience, it had sent cold chills down Reggie’s spine. He certainly didn’t want any more of that.

“Okay, okay. Just give me your spiel and let me get back to my contemplation.”

“What you were … contemplating … as you call it … was how sorry you are for yourself. And what I’m going to tell you will set you free from all your self-pity and wasted life if you’ll take heed to it.”

“Okay, okay, get on with it.”

“Well, it’s actually very simple, Reggie. You simply have to make yourself be where you are.”

“Huh?” Reggie shook his head briskly and sat forward in his chair, looking more intently at his visitor. “What the heck does that mean?”

His visitor sighed. “It means, Reg, that you need to live in the present hour — every hour of your life. Live now. You can’t re-do yesterdays, Reggie, and the future is nothing but a long series of ‘now’s’ that you’ll eventually experience one at a time. But when you get to them, you’ll have what it takes to deal with each of them. Trying to worry ahead of time about what might or might not be in those ‘now’s’ is ridiculous because you can’t even begin to know what they’ll be like. So why exhaust yourself worrying about them? And why drive yourself to drink by sitting around pitying yourself for the things that have already happened and can’t be changed?”

Reggie hung his head. “Yeah, I guess I have to admit my life’s a bummer coming and going.”

His visitor jumped up from the sofa, and Reggie looked up at him, a little fearful.

“Then for heaven’s sake, man, quit coming and going – hopping from your sad past to your unreadable future! Start living where you are and when you are. Take one day at a time, and one hour at a time. Look at it, feel it, taste it; let it soak into you; enjoy everything you can about it, and if you can’t enjoy it, then learn something from it. But live it. Start really living each one of those moments in your life, Reggie, and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.”

“But I don’t think I know how.”

“It isn’t rocket science, Reggie. As I said at the beginning of our conversation: it’s simple. You just have to decide to do it. And I’m not telling you everything will be the way you want it. Your life – like anyone else’s – will have its ups and downs. It may not always be great – but at least it will be real.”

Reggie hung his head again, leaning over with his elbows on his knees, trying to get a better handle on the fact that he was listening to some vision that had just suddenly appeared in his living room. He had to admit that what his visitor said gave him the first inkling of hope that he could actually have a better life.

“Yeah, you might be right.” He surprised himself by saying the words aloud. He was still looking down at the floor but his mind was going back over his visitor’s words. Even though it felt a little spooky hearing them from this apparition, he knew in his heart that he needed to try to follow the advice.

“I’ll do it!” he said as he looked back up to the visitor to confirm his decision. But then he blinked. The room was empty.



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