30 March 2015

this is now.

If you're like me, too often you place the keys to your happiness in some future event or circumstance.

"When this project at work is over, then I'll be happy."

"When I finish final exams, then I can be at peace again."

"When we go on vacation next month, then everything will be okay."

If you're living that way, you're a prisoner of time. And probably super frustrated a lot. And maybe your face looks like this:

One of the funny (and unanticipated) aspects of working on a contract with a defined end date is that it kind of forces you to think about what you are going to do once that date arrives.

We have consistently said that we are not making any decisions now about what to do come May 2017 when our initial contract with Maryknoll Lay Missioners ends (i.e. stay in Tanzania longer, move to another country, return to the United States, build a rainbow bridge to a distant planet, etc.), but that doesn't mean the thought doesn't cross our minds.

I have already written about the trouble with time, but as human beings it seems impossible to never think about the future. However, our spiritual director offered up some wisdom about how to deal with the bombardment of future-oriented thoughts that rush into our minds. Rather than being a victim to that rush, make dedicated time and space every so often to plan for the future.

"Tomorrow morning, I will sit and think and discern about a future decision that I need to make."

That way, all the other times that the future tries to come into your brain you can say, "I don't think so dude. Not right now. Find the exit, or find my fist in your face."

During one of these conversations in which Ashley and I were struggling with the present reality of life in Mwanza, Tanzania and wondering about what the heck to do with our life in the future, I started to become very anxious and uncertain about the path I would follow. It was in that moment that Ashley said something quite awesome:

"This isn't it. This is now. It's not about getting to the end. This is life right now, and that's the only life we have, so let's live it."

In other words, the present moment - however crucial to live in - can be painful. But we are still called to, at the very least, accept it as the present moment - not as eternity, but as the present. On top of that, it does us no good to fret about arriving at some final destination in which everything will just be okay.

Life has it seasons. Tanzania is one of those seasons for us. And many more seasons (God willing) will follow. It's not about getting to some elusive chapter and saying, "Now we must live here and do this work until our bodies rot away." Heck no. I don't want to live like that. There are many chapters on the pages of our life. Don't skip ahead. You'll miss out on the action in between.

So let us make the most of this very moment, appreciating the current season of our life ready to dive into the seasons that follow, without the worry of planning out everything that must happen from this day forward.


  1. I think I have trouble with this more than anything else. Two experiences - turning 30 (that was 5 years ago!) and having children - have utterly taken away my "peace in the moment." Every experience in life seems to have the ticking of a clock somewhere behind it, which greatly hollows out the riches of life. A good indicator of this is that it has become so much easier to browse the internet than to read a book, because the internet is inherently frenetic and distracting, while to sit in a silent place and read words on paper requires a great sense of calm.

    1. Two practices that we have adopted to try and cope with what you described is (1) focusing on our breathing and (2) meditation. On the first, basically every now and then I stop myself and do nothing but pay attention to the rhythm of my breathing for a few moments. On the second, I struggle greatly but the act of sitting quietly for even 5 or 10 minutes builds up a certain stamina for being more at peace and in the present. I liken meditation to training for a marathon. It prepares you for the days ahead.

  2. That's funny, Rachel is always telling me to focus on my breathing. Hmmmm.


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