By Jennifer Wallace
Be in the moment was an expression that was imprinted in my thinking and became like a mantra when I took drama classes in University and in improvisation over the years. Actors are often told not to anticipate what comes next. The character, and person an actor embodies, does not know what is going to happen or what someone is going to say next. The actor herself may know but not her character. I have tried to remember this as I have grown older.
I was often looking forward as a child, teen, and young adult. My diaries were full of this recurring theme. I looked forward to the next: camp, youth rally, play, game, trip, singing tour, big event…. When I wasn’t looking forward to something, I was sometimes dreading the next: test, essay, final… I am certain I enjoyed the times while I was living them. I got involved and I have fond memories. But I also have a different perspective now. I have a child who often asks my husband and me, “What’s next?” while we are still doing an activity. It is not a bad thing to anticipate but lately I am saying, “Just enjoy life right now.” In other words, be in the moment. Given the opportunity I might whisper to my younger self writing in those pages of her diary, “Don’t worry. Just be in the moment.”
I most certainly was not patient when it came to my future mate. I had a list and expectations and it seemed I was always asking God “When?” When I finally threw that list out, along with my demands to know when I would meet said future spouse, I started having more fun. Around that same time, I actually paid attention to a guy who was hanging out with my girlfriends and me for eight years–I had already met him! He is certainly a better man than any list I could come up with.
I am not by any means detracting from anticipation. We anticipated our engagement then our wedding day and then our marriage. Two years later, we anticipated our firstborn. I am so glad for the pregnancy photos and untainted eagerness we had—we had no idea our time with our baby would be cut short. We certainly experienced my next two pregnancies and anticipated deliveries (and everyone else’s with changed perspective).
I am also grateful for the times when I had no choice but to be in the moment. In times of great joy and grief, I have had to be present. It is wonderful when I am fully taking in a moment with my husband and my children. My focus and my whole being are in one place. In some ways, I feel I have become better at this simply because the BIG questions of career and family have been answered. But am I really present? I, like most teachers, anticipate weekends, Mondays, summer time, holidays, the start of the new school year, new staff, and students…I look forward to times with my school kids and time with my own kids. I think we were made to anticipate.
Yet there is an ever present demand on my attention to steer me away from being in the moment. I grew up in a family where photos were taken a lot. I am very appreciative of this rich documentation my family has. But in this digital age, it is hard to remain in the moment and put down the camera, phone, apps and just BE. My kids and my husband remind me to come back to them with, “Are you listening?” or simply, “Mom, mom, MOM!”
There is a reason we need guidance and God knew we would all need help in this area. Being present is why Jesus was and continues to be so appealing. He met people where they were at. God in the flesh. He listened. He cared. More than once we are told not to worry in the Bible:
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
The writer Paul stated: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
I have loved the old admonition that Uncle Mordecai gave to his Jewish niece, who became Queen Esther, to plead for their people, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” I even named my blog that, back when I was writing for it. And I believe that we all are being asked to be in the moment. We need to be present to needs around us. We need to be awake to what is going on. We need to be in the moment.