The Grace of the Present

I’m not opposed to making memories.  As an introvert, I spend a decent amount of time inside my own head, thinking over what has or will transpire.  However, the other day I was scrolling through Facebook and I was seeing pictures and albums that were presented as “making memories.”  Do we prefer to make memories rather than live in the present moment?

Is something off if we spend a large amount of our time documenting for the future moments of the past?  Could it be that the present is not actually as great as we will remember it to be once it is firmly grounded in the past?

I’m sporadically reading One Thousand Gifts and the other day I read about how Ann Voskamp, the author, was struggling to encounter God’s face in the moments where she is stressed and angry.  Seeing God’s face in the brilliance of the morning sunrise or the contented cooing of a newborn is easy.  Yet it stretches us to see God’s face in a belligerent student or a quarrel with a friend.  As I read, I thought of how just that day I had been annoyed with my students not listening to my directions.  It never even crossed my mind to stop and consider, “How are they revealing God’s face to me right now?”

The present moment is the place where we encounter God.

We are making strides when we are able to go back to a difficult situation and see how God was present in that moment.  Yet it is supremely better to be able to, in that very moment, see the face of God present.  If only I could look at my students, complaining and upset about their work, and see Christ in them.  It would take re-training my mind and my heart.

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp reveals an experience she had with her son that changed them both.  At one point in the conversation, she tells her son that the only way to combat feelings is to have other feelings.  The central feeling we can use to combat unwelcome feelings, she presents, is gratitude.  In the midst of frustration, fatigue, anger, sadness, or annoyance, what a difference it would make if we would begin to be thankful.  Not gratitude for something of the past or the future, but gratitude for that present moment.  What would it be like if in our most trying moments we saw the face of God in His perennial presence?  Surely it would change things.

If we spend our lives trying to simply “make memories,” I fear that the best moments of life will not be what we actually experience, but always events of the past.  I run the risk of sabotaging my present for the glorification of a past that never really existed.

When I look at my semester that I spent studying abroad, I don’t initially recall the tiredness, the inevitable frustrations of group planning, or the desire for American comforts.  Yet those were very real aspects of my semester.  I cannot expect my present moment to measure up to my idealized past experiences.

God is present in the here and now.  In this moment, despite the commonness.  In my quiet study hall on a random Wednesday.  In the lukewarm coffee I’m still enjoying from this morning.  In the satisfaction of checking another item off my to-do list.

This present moment is a moment of grace.  Because grace is only offered in the present.

I desire to teach myself to accept each moment as the grace-filled, soul-transforming, heart-deepening, wound-healing, saint-making, God-given moment that it is.  This present moment is where we encounter God.  Let us not overlook His presence in the now in an effort to live in the past.

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