Monday, June 7, 2010

Living in the Sacred Present

-
Thank you all (once again) for your patience as the three of us girls went through a bit of a busy season and had to put the blog on hold for a bit. But we're back! And today we're sharing a speech I wrote and spoke at my high school graduation last month. Congratulations to any other 2010 graduates!
-
Photobucket
-
Earlier this week, I was strolling around Barnes and Noble in search of a journal when I happened upon the graduation card display. Glancing at a few of the cards, I read some of the typical cliché phrases found in most every hallmark graduation card. One quoted William Arthur Ward, saying, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” Another one quoted Walt Disney, saying, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” So many of the graduation idioms emphasize our bright futures and the importance of our dreams and hopes.
-
But I wonder if amidst all of the “inspiring” graduation expressions, and even amidst our own anticipation for what the next few years of our life will hold, that we loose sight of, as George MacDonald termed it, the “sacred present.” I know myself that I often become so entranced with dreaming about the future that the present tends to have little appeal. And while I certainly agree that it is important to pursue our dreams and work towards our goals, I think we must be careful not to emphasize the future at the cost of the present. For if we think only of the future, we will be forever hounded by the lie that we do not quite have enough, that we are not truly living yet.
-
The author Norman Wirzba writes: “Many of us submit to daily schedules that keep us moving at a soul-blistering, exhaustion-inducing pace, and we agree to ever-lengthening to-do lists that invariably leave us stretched or stressed to the breaking point . . .the frantic, fragmenting, multi-tasking character of contemporary living has made it likely that many of us simply evade or fail to consider with much seriousness or depth life's most basic and profound questions: What is all our living finally for? Why do we commit to so much? Why do we devote ourselves to the tasks or priorities that we do? Will we know when we have achieved or acquired enough? What purpose does our striving serve?"
-
The hallmark graduation cards try to respond to these questions by telling us that we will have enough once we achieve our dreams. And so they imply that if we just keep striving and just keep working to make our futures better and to succeed, we will be satisfied. Yet amidst the striving and the rush and this emphasis on the future, we lose sight of the beauty of an ordinary afternoon, we overlook the evidences of grace in another person’s life, and we take no delight in the actual act of our work. And so my challenge to myself is to yes, continue working towards my goals, but at the same time, be intentional about living in the present and taking delight in the abundance of God’s daily grace. While none of these ideas are my own, I believe that there are three primary ways by which we can do this.
-
First, find the splendor in the ordinary. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.” But do we have eyes to see it? Are we so blinded by our striving for the future and by our to-do lists and goals that we overlook the beauty of a flock of geese taking flight, the intricate lines in the bark of a tree, or the sun shining off of icicles in the winter light?
-
Second, search for the evidences of grace in the lives of those around you. Paul writes in Philippians that it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. When we interact with our family and friends, do we stop long enough to see the traces of the hand of God in their lives? As C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
-
Third, take delight in your work rather than seeing it only as a hassle and a chore. Wirzba writes, “When work is reduced to careerism, its divine dimension and intention are cut off.” Do we see our work—whether it be school work or a job—as drudgery and simply endure it until summertime or retirement? Or do we take delight in the daily routine and see the work of our hands and our minds as something that we are intrinsically created for?
-
So, while yes, graduation is a time to consider our hopes and dreams for the future, let us not forget to savor and take delight in the often-unseen yet inordinate grace of God in our lives. Thomas Howard said that it is the ordinary stuff lifted up that is holy. And it is through the ordinary stuff—a tree, a smile, our daily work—that we ground ourselves in the sacred present and learn to stop striving after often-evasive dreams and instead find satisfaction in God-given abundance. All is grace—may we train our eyes to see it.
-

7 comments:

  1. Wow, what you're saying is so true. Our culture so strongly emphasizes the future (esp. at this stage- teens and young adults) that it is hard to remember the truth of your statement, we need to live to glorify God EACH DAY, including the one we're living right now. Thanks for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
  2. So very true. I think you would be good at debate! Thanks for making me remember.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That is a really good speech! I just graduated and it was good for me to read that. God has things planned for us to do here and now, not just in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  4. WOW.
    I was so touched through this. I've just spent a whole year of my life living for the future. I worked hard for a dream and put all my hopes and trust in it, instead of God. And suddenly, my dream faded and I had nothing left. Except God. What a lesson for me!
    He wants us to live only for HIM today. Tomorrow will be tomorrow.
    The word itself makes it obvious: "PRESENT". It's a gift.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow. Thank you so much for blogging this. I love writing to-do lists, and I dream and plan a lot, but you've (or was it God?) reminded me to take pleasure in, enjoy, and learn from the 'ordinary afternoon', in every persons' life, in the simple pleasures God heavily sprinkles down in my life. To stop always doing and start living.

    By the way, I really enjoy your blog. I guess you could call me a 'lurker'! :) I subscribed to your magazine through email. Bloom, both as a blog and as a magazine, has blessed me! Thank you for all your hard, loving work.

    God bless!
    Jessica

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you so much for posting this speech! I just graduated and have been distressed by the abundance of cliche sayings and talk of next year. Thanks for the reminder to live for God's glory now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. So you know, I took an excert from this post the other day. I hope you don't mind. Please let me know if there are any problems.

    http://jessicaletchford.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/forget-the-lists/

    Thanks for your awesome work
    Jessica

    ReplyDelete