Today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday and the yesterday I will feel guilty about tomorrow.
I don’t remember when I first heard those words, but the truth they communicated hit me like a ton of bricks. For too much of my life I have spent energy worrying over what might be and have suffered guilt over what might have been. Rather than being the miracle of life embraced, experienced, and celebrated, today has more often been the razor-thin boundary between the past that is gone and the future that is yet to be.
Fortunately (or is it providentially?) as I get older I am less paralyzed by anxiety over the future and less haunted by guilt over the past. My testimony in the worry department is the same as in some other areas of my life: “I ain’t well, but I sure am better.”
I want to share with you some of the thoughts and images which help me to live today in ways that are life-affirming. And I share these with you not as somebody who has arrived but as a fellow traveler whose testimony at best is one of stumbling growth.
1) Worry is essentially a distrust of God. Jesus stressed that in his teaching regarding the birds of the heavens and the lilies of the field. If God is truly Abba holding all of time in nail-scarred hands, then I need only rest in God, trusting my Maker with the seasons of my life. I like that old saying, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” Because my destiny and that of the whole creation will end in God’s presence, the future need not be feared as an unknown monster or braced for as some “future shock” proposed by so-called specialists. The future will be in the likeness of Jesus. That is part of what the resurrection means. In Jesus of Nazareth we see where God is taking us and creation, and like a trailblazer, Jesus goes before us preparing for that future where love, mercy, justice, peace, compassion, forgiveness, joy, and community are the common experience.
2) Anxiety can paralyze me only to the extent that I do not seek first and foremost God’s Kingdom and holy will. God’s Kingdom will come. Indeed, that Peaceable Realm is already dawning in surprising and wonderful ways. The meaning of credo from which we get our word “creed” is “I give my heart to.” If I give my heart to God, then I will be about the business of the Kingdom and everything else will fall into place. That sounds simplistic, but it’s true. I know it’s true because I have experienced it. What I can’t figure out is why I keep forgetting that marvelous grace.
3) I used to think that the best way I could deal with unfortunate and sinful aspects of my past was to remember the old saying, “Don’t cry over spilt milk.” Today because I believe that in some way all of time–past, present, and future–are kept in God’s hands and that God will redeem all of time, I picture God’s forgiving and redemptive presence even transforming my past so that all of me can be made whole. And I try to remember that truth as I relate to others. It’s not just “Be patient with me because God is not finished with me yet.” It’s “Even my past is cradled in creative hands and what I shall become will include my redeemed past.”
4) And lastly I remember that the image of ripening fruit and not the ticking of an alarm clock demonstrates the ways of God with me and others. When the moment is ripe, the grace will blossom and the miracle will come. God is an artist who will not be rushed. Desperation and frantic maneuvering are not God’s style. When the moment is ripe, the Spirit will move and the fruit will fall plump and delicious from the tree of life. The ways of God take time. But that’s all right, because this God seems to be with us for the long haul. And that allows me to see each present as an “Eternal Now” permeated with God’s presence and encompassed with God’s love. Time becomes a means of grace where the leaven of the Kingdom does its wondrous work. And then like the birds of the heavens and the lilies of the field, I too can sing and blossom knowing that Abba cares for me–and you–and every other part of this marvelous creation. Amen.