How hard it is to stay still in the present moment. There is such an unsettling clutter of nagging anxieties about the future. The clamour of what might be, what could be, what should be, is never silent.
The future robs the present. I cannot live fully here because my eyes stay focused on some dark distant unknown horizon. Details, concerns, plans, responsibilities jostle in my mind like angry children fighting over the last piece of cake on the plate.
Caught in the growing hell of Nazi occupied Amsterdam on 11 July 1942, twenty-eight year old Etty Hillesum wrote in her diary,
If one burdens the future with one’s worries,
it cannot grow organically.
To live in the present as if the future were more real is insanity. When I allow my attention to be drawn to an imagined future, I prevent the future, from being all that it may be when it does arrive. The essential nature of the future is that it is unknown. Worry is simply the determination to know that which is unknowable. When I worry I attempt to rob the future of its essential nature.
Jesus said, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34) Tomorrow does not exist today. Tomorrow is not real. It is only a fantasy of my mind, a story I spin out in the futile attempt to control my life.
I cannot control what will be. I can only prepare myself now to live well when whatever is going to come arrives.
Etty Hillesum goes on to write,
I am filled with confidence, not that I shall succeed in worldly things,
but that even when things go badly for me
I shall find life good and worth living.
To live fully in the present moment is to prepare myself to live better in the future, whatever that future may bring. There is nothing I can do to control tomorrow. I can only decide now to choose a healthy life-giving response to today. If I choose to open and receive life now, I will be better able to live fully and deeply when the future becomes my present moment.
Etty calls this attitude “inner receptiveness.”
I may face cruelty and deprivation the likes of which I cannot imagine
even in my wildest fantasies.
Yet all this is as nothing to the immeasurable expanse of my faith in God
and my inner receptiveness.
I can choose to open and soften to the present moment. Or I can resist the realities of my life as I encounter them. When I resist the circumstances of my life as they are, I weaken my spirit and lose my awareness of the presence of God who sustains and strengthens me to live each moment as it comes.
When I surrender my determination to control the future, I discover the freedom to live fully in this present moment. Etty Hillesum writes,
We must grow so independent of material and external things
that whatever the circumstances our spirit can continue to do its work.
There is a core of freedom and light at the centre of my being. I am created in the “image of God.” I do not need to give away that steady centre of my being which Etty says, “neither war nor any other senseless human atrocity will ever be able to change.”
There is a strong steady rhythm at the heart of my life that no circumstance can threaten and no disaster can undo. All the situations about which I have ever worried are designed only to lead me to this spacious place of truth and strength. Uncertainties and fears about the future are God’s give calling me to discover that inner terrain of strength and peace that is my true identity.