In my recent counseling session, the discussion gravitated to the concept of living in the now. Some may recall the big push by Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle and his book The Power of Now. They offered nationwide courses on Tolle’s teachings and his concepts. I’ll admit, although my counselor recommended the book, I’m not certain I care to read it. Frankly, it smacks of pop psychology and the school of self-help. A school I’ve attended before and ended up self-destructing. Having said that, there is something about the “now” that is important.
It is apparent that we can do nothing to change the past. Nor can we necessarily influence the future. So all we have is the “now”. How we live in the essence of “now” seems to be the key. Nothing really magical about it. However, it seems to be more difficult to do than some people might expect. We are a product of our past. The decisions we’ve made, the relationships we’ve had, the circumstances we’ve put ourselves in, have all created – to a great degree – our “now”. There is nothing we can do to change the past. The same might be true of the future. Although we won’t know any of that until we’re in a position of looking back. So “now” is now.
What I have learned, something I suspect I’ve known all along, is that I spend much of my time in the past. Past triumphs, past defeats, past decisions, past relationships, etc. I bounce my now up against much of what I did in the past which is unproductive, but influential. I can’t change it, but it certainly affects what I do or don’t do today. For example, past failures, i.e., career changes that were poor choices, influence what I think about today when it comes to “what will I be when I grow up?” I hesitate moving forward with ideas or inspirations because of the lack of follow through in the past or poor choices. My past influences my present and handicaps me from taking action. My future, thinking a year or two from now will this decision produce another roadside wreck in my life, prevents me from acting. Neither of which, the past or the future, I can influence or change. Well, to some degree. I can influence my future by in-action and simply stay mired in the same old poor poor pitiful me mindset.
To give a “today” example. I read an article about having a critical spirit. As I read the article I began to think, “why had I not read this article before today. It was laying there, the magazine open right to it.” Then I began to criticize myself for not having done so. How silly is that. Instead of saying, “wow, what a great article. I really needed to hear what that writer was saying,” I began to dwell on why I had not read it previously. Uhm…..
When Jesus was talking about his role as the good shepherd. He spoke about protection, provision and a position of confidence. The pivotal point of his analogy was that the enemy (thief) comes to kill and destroy the sheep, but the good shepherd has come “that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).” This is where “living in the now” and living in the fold part ways. It appears that Tolle’s point is that we find wholeness in living in the now and making good choices. For the believer, it is living in a faith-trust relationship believing that nothing – past, present, or future – happens or escapes the knowledge, protection, provision, or position of confidence, we find in Christ. In other words, everything is filtered through that relationship, or sovereignty of God. That does not mean we should shun the “now.” It simply means we can embrace the “now” knowing that where we are is – perhaps – exactly where God wants us to be. And it is the past that brought us to the “here”.
Did Peter look back and think, “my, I should have stayed in fishing.” Or Matthew, “Gee, tax collecting was not all that bad”? Perhaps. Maybe on more than one occasion. But that did not change their “now” relationship with Christ or their role as one of the twelve. Plus— Jesus told them what to expect in the future. Not that they would change it, but that they might prepare to embrace it and meet its challenges.
Where does that leave me? Quite frankly, I’m not certain. I would like to think I can learn from the past, experience the “now”, and look forward to the future. It has been my experience to stay stuck in the past. So my goal is to break the bondage to all of that and look at today and say, “I can make new decisions!” I can believe the good shepherd will protect, provide and place me in a position of confidence. I can know that he has come to bring me something greater than self-help. He has come to bring me life – abundant life!