Here and now and forever
Two weeks felt like a lifetime. There was birth and growth and death, a marked beginning and a definite end, profound emotion and deep friendships and priceless lessons and utter fullness. My trip felt like a lifetime, but I also felt as if I were dwelling outside of time. As if each day, from calm and cool and quiet sunrise to restful, relieving, radiant sunset, was an eternity.
While I wore a watch on my wrist, and had the task of translating kilometers to miles and checking the guidebook to see our progress and planning a new schedule and route once my traveling companion had left, I felt it: the eternal now. As the sun stroked its way across the open Spanish sky, I allowed myself to simply be. I entered the methodical lull of extending one foot in front of the other, over and over, across rocky paths and paved highways and sandy shores. I lost track of time in heart-to-hearts and in hours of silence. I watched fields and mountains and towns unfold slowly before my eyes, coming and going and coming again. I sang unabashedly to myself and prayed fervently with monks and dined joyously with a melting pot of new friends. Day in and day out. Sunup to sundown. Left, right, left.
There’s a special grace, I find, on pilgrimage to be fully present in the moment. To soak up the newness and pain and mystery. To appreciate the fleeting days away from my normal routine. To give special thanks for gifts that abound, gifts that I so easily recognize. But an overarching theme that God brought to my mind was this: you can live like this all the time. It doesn’t take flying halfway across the world to live in the present, to live with constant gratitude, to see God’s providence at every turn, to approach my surroundings with wonder and awe. Humanly speaking, it’s easier, to be sure. It’s easier to form new habits and practice undeveloped virtues and soak in each moment when my time feels limited and momentous and precious.
But here’s the thing: God is found in the present. We don’t encounter Him in the past or the future, we find Him in the here and now. Okay, Lord, I’ll live in the present, but can it be that present that I live in? The pilgrimaging one, away from duties and demands? Silly, silly me. Now, the present is sitting at a desk. Packing my lunch. Riding the subway. Folding laundry. Running errands. Circling the block to find a parking space. But this time is no less limited, no less momentous, no less precious. Still a gift from God. And to wish away time? Even the hour of 4 to 5 as I watch the clock on a Friday afternoon? It’s like saying, “No, God, I don’t want this gift. I reject it. I don’t want this chance to encounter You now, I’ll wait until later when I’m more comfortable, when I’m resting, when I’m in the mood.”
But now is the time. It is in the now that we taste eternity, in the now that we find complete freedom, in the now that we remember our eventual home. So my prayer for me and for you is this: may we always embrace the gift of the present, giving thanks to God for His unparalleled goodness, whether we’re walking across a foreign country or writing our thousandth email of the week. Here and now and forever.